Maple Syrup Season is such a fun time of year for our family.
We look forward to tapping our maple trees around mid February.
It's a process, from start to finish, but very rewarding and educational.
Here is a quick overview of how we go about tapping.
First you will need:
Spiles with hooks (Tractor Supply sells these or you can purchase some off of someone who is no longer tapping.)
Buckets with lids (These buckets will have a little hole in them that you hang from the hook which hang from the spile.)
Drill and a 7/16 inch drill bit
Of course you're gonna need a Sugar Maple Tree. You should identify these in the summer and/or fall. Mark them so you don't forget come winter when there are no leaves on the trees. Sugar maples have bright, beautiful colored leaves.
You can tap your trees from mid Feb. - mid March. Temperatures should be above freezing during the day for the sap to run and below freezing at night.
Tap only mature trees!
Select your tree. Choose a spot on your tree that is about 2-3 feet off the ground. Drill about a 2 inch deep hole into the side of the tree at a slight angle. You don't want it going straight in. You want the sap to flow down and out the spout/spile. So make sure you have a slight upward angle.
Once you have drilled your hole you can gently tap the spile in with the hammer. Do Not pound the tap into the tree. It is not neccessary and will only damage the tree. Make sure your hook is already on the spile and facing outward. You don't want to have to take out the spile once you've tapped it in. The spile won't stick in place once it's been removed. You only want to remove the spile at the end of the season.
Hang the bucket from the hook.
Place the lid onto the bucket.
Tapping the trees only takes a few minutes each. Make sure you do not tap within 6 inches or so of the previous year's tap hole. Also, don't tap trees that are 12 inches in diameter or less. They are too young. On a very large tree however, some can hold up to two taps.
Sometimes the sap will start running as soon as you get the spile in the hole. My kids love to stick their head under the spile with their mouth hanging wide open waiting for that sugary water to come dripping out. On colder days the sap runs slow. On warmer days it runs at a steady drip. We check our trees in the morning and at night, especially when it's warm out. Buckets can fill up fast.
Here is what it looked like the next day..... It looks like clear water.
Make sure you have a holding place for all that sap you're gonna get. Large plastic bins work great, especially when they have a lid on them. You don't want to find any critters in there. We keep our sap outside where it stays cool until it's time to boil. We usually collect all week and then boil on the weekends.
Be prepared to get quite a few gallons! I believe it's 40 gallons makes 1 gallon of syrup.
You are also going to want to think about how you want to boil it. We've done it inside and outside.
Out side is best! We have done it inside too. When you boil there is a lot of steam.
So there is a lot of water that collects on things. Our hood range couldn't handle all the steam so it broke. So I recommend doing it outdoors. I know some people who have used a Big Kahuna outdoor burner, by placing a large heavy duty pot on it and boiling that way. You just have to make sure that your tank is full.
I highly recommend getting the book Backyard Sugarin'. It will give you some great alternatives to making your own evaporating/boiling station.
Check back soon. I'll be posting about boiling!
On an educational note this covers math and science! Oh the free ranging possibilities!