“Mom, the trees are starting to drip sap. Can we please make maple syrup?” The kids were begging to try again after our first attempt didn’t turn out so well two years ago.
Tapping the Trees
So Anthony drilled two holes in each of the three sugar maple trees here in our yard. We hung our strawberry buckets (saved from a couple of years ago when I bought a bunch to freeze) on the spouts. And then we watched the sap drip. In just 3 hours or so, most of the gallon buckets were full. So we dumped them into a turkey cooker we borrowed from Anthony’s parents, and hung them back on the tree to collect more. By the middle of the following day, we had a cooker almost full, around 8-10 gallons, I’d say.
Boiling Down the Sap
We fired up the propane tank and started cooking. It seems like you’re just boiling water. The sap is completely clear, and every bit as runny as water. It looks exactly like water. The only difference is the sweet taste on your finger if you dip it in and try it.
After a day and a half of boiling away the water, the sap started getting lower and lower in the cooker. We brought it in to the kitchen and transferred it to a pot on our stove so we could watch it better. (We learned the hard way before this that the whole batch of syrup can be burned beyond repair, if you wait too long to remove it from the heat!) I stuck a candy thermometer in and kept an eye on it. It needed to be 7 degrees above the boiling point of water. The boiling point at our elevation is 210. So we watched, peering through the steam on the glass thermometer until we saw it hit 217 degrees. By that time it was really starting to bubble up and get foamy, which is a sign that it is ready to take off. All we had to do then was to strain out the “sand” which is the grainy stuff made of minerals and such that will settle to the bottom of the syrup jar if you don’t strain it out. We just poured it through a paper towel into a Pyrex pitcher, and then we “oohed” and “ahhed” at the beautifully clear, golden-brown syrup that was the result of our work.
The Finished Product
Out of that 8-10 gallons of sap, we were left with two plus pints of syrup! But it’s delicious!!
There’s a lot of interesting and helpful info on the web if you’re ever interested in making your own maple syrup. Here’s a good place to start: www.massmaple.org
Two of the most important things we learned from experience are:
1) Don’t tap trees that are starting to bud. We did that two years ago, and the syrup definitely had an “off” flavor.
2) Maple syrup WILL burn, if you don’t watch it closely. We did that too. 😦