Last weekend, my husband and I spent a day boiling down our buckets of maple sap into syrup. It was an all day event, but aside from time it really doesn’t take much to do!
While this was our first year harvesting sap and making our own syrup, everything went well and we sure learned a lot! Here are some of the things we learned:
- Determine what type of maple trees you have. While you can get sap from all varieties, sugar maples are the best as they have the highest sugar content in their sap.
- Tap your maple trees when the temperatures fall below freezing at night, but are above freezing during the day.
- Your sap to syrup yield will vary based on the type of maple you tapped. But generally, it’s about 40:1. We harvested (8) gallons of sap, and ended up with just shy of (2) pints, leaving us around a 43:1.
- Remove maple taps when the temperatures are getting too warm – staying above freezing at night, and getting into the 50-60s consistently during the day. The warmer it gets, the more sugar the tree starts using to wake itself from dormancy, producing buds and then leaves. This means you’ll end up with maple sap that had a low sugar percentage, and will be bitter. Definitely not good for making maple syrup!
As far far as boiling down the syrup, we did our research, and spoke with neighbors who also harvest sap for syrup. The consensus appears to be the same – boil it outside, either on a grill or an open fire. Burning inside on a stove will take much, much longer, and the evaporating water carries with it a little sugar that will end up coating your entire kitchen.
We boiled ours in a wide metal pan, similar to a buffet tray you might see over a sterno, over an open fire. We put about 1″ of sap in, reducing it down and then pouring it into a large metal pot on the grill to finish. Boiling the maple sap over the fire was definitely fastest as he large pan gave us more surface area, and we kept the fire burning hot.
Other than keeping an eye, and stirring occasionally, boiling down sap for maple syrup was a lot press work than we anticipated. My husband worked on our latest land clearing project, and I shelled acorns and twisted vines into wreaths while the sap cooked.
The maple syrup we finished with is delicious. It is true, as it is with most homemade
products, that it tastes different from your commercial maple syrup. It has a rich, deep, woody flavor, with maybe even a hint of
smokiness from the open fire. It’s dangerously good, in a “how on Earth will we make this last until next year?!” kind of way! Only 11 months until next year’s sugaring season, right?