We all love Maple syrup, and you will be happy to know that it is not too difficult to make. You can make maple syrup from all maples, but some will produce more than others. Do not think that you are restricted to only sugar maples. Note Box Elder does not look like most maple leaves but is actually one of the best sources of sap for making syrup.
Before we start it should be known up front, that you will only get one gallon of syrup from about 40 gallons of good maple sap. If you tap birch trees you will need 80 gallons of sap to equal 40 gallons of maple sap. So beware. You will need a lot of sap.
If you need help identifying maple trees, look here. Maple Tree Id
. Tapping trees is done in a number of different ways. The first step will be to find a good sized tree. Trees for producing sap should be at least 12 inches in diameter. The next step is to drive your commercially available hollow spigot into the tree! Don't have a spigot, don't worry another way is to do it the old fashioned way like the Indians did.
Indians would take an ax tool and gash the side of the tree to form a angled cut in the bark, then another hit would be applied to leave the tree with two cuts that form a V shape. You can drive in a pencil size piece of wood or nail to help direct the flow into your container.
Under the spigot or the V cuts you place a bowl or something to collect the sap that flows out. It is slow, not a faucet. Cover the container except for where the sap runs in to keep debris and bugs out of the container... hopefully.
At the end of the season the tap or spigot is removed. Drilled holes are filled with a hardwood dowel or a clean fresh stick. Next year you tap in a different spot. Using the tap is less damaging to the tree than the gash Indian method.
OK we have talked about collecting sap but not when. The "when" to collect sap is unfortunately not something that is done year round. Maple sugar season occurs during the early spring and this varies depending on how far North you live. Up North say Pennsylvania tapping season would be around March and April. Ideally it will be freezing during the night and above freezing during the day. This could be a problem if you live to far south where temperatures don't often get below freezing. So concentrate on the temperatures and not a specific date.
After you have collected enough sap, you'll transfer the syrup to a large bucket. It is important to keep your sap stored at about 38 degrees Fahrenheit and it should be processed as fast as possible.
The next step is to start cooking the maple sap. Fill your cooking pot about 3/4 full or less. Bring the sap to a boil. Boil off all of the excess water in the sap. You'll have to tend the fire and keep a close eye on the sap to prevent burning it. As the water boils off add more sap. You should try to add more sap slowly so that the pot remains on a slow steady boil.
When the sap runs a light gold color and has thickened somewhat you are close to being finished. Don't stop boiling until the sap becomes thick and sticky. It should be thicker than most store bought syrup. Thickness is the key.
Once the syrup has cooled some poor it into container. Glass is preferable. The syrup should have cooled enough to be safer to handle but still warm enough so that it can pour without to much trouble. Home-made syrup can last two months if refrigerated. Freezing if you have a freezer can be done to make the syrup last all year.
That is it, enjoy!