Back after a long hiatus and a busy winter … and… we’re trying our hands at maple syrup, folks.
It’s a New England institution, gathering sap, and one we’ve been on the periphery of each year. We’ve been to maple sap boils, sugar houses, and sent nearly every family member a Christmas bottle of New Hampshire-made syrup. With two huge (namesake) trees on our property, it was time for us to give it a go.
Eschewing the modern plastic sap containers, I posted an ad on a local farm & garden Facebook group in search of the classic, old galvanized ones. In a bit of a rush (40 degrees starts TOMORROW!), I got in touch with the farmstead across the street, and of course they had sap buckets hanging around, complete with tops and spiles (combo tap/bucket holders.)
Then, we started the hunt for maples around the property. Any sugar-type maple would do, but popular varieties are Sugar, Red, Silver, Black, and Rock. Trees needed to be at least 31″ around before they can safely be tapped without damaging the tree. This was a bit larger than we anticipated, and we discovered lots of junior sugar trees … just a few more years needed!
Trees 79+ inches around can take 3 taps, which is the max. At 150+ inches around (12+ feet!) this tree is our largest… shortly after the photo, we hung a third bucket on this one.
We pre-drilled a 2″ downward-facing hole and gently pounded in the spile with a mallet. The hook on the bottom holds the bucket, and the groove on the top funnels sap into the bucket. Buckets should hang on the South-facing side of the tree, which is the warmest. Sap flows best when days are 40-50 degrees and nights dip down in the 30s. These temperature changes make sap flow up and down the tree (and out of our taps!)
Each tap can produce 10-20+ gallons, and 40 gallons are needed to make 1 gallon of syrup. This sheer quantity, along with the labor-intensive and hands-on process involved in making real syrup dictates much higher prices for genuine maple syrup vs. the general grocery-story maple-flavored (corn) “syrup”…
Today was truly the easiest day of the process, I’m imagining. Now, we wait, haul sap, store it and boil it down. Hopefully things won’t go wrong along the way, and even if we end up with enough to put on a few pancakes, it’ll be success. We have much to learn!
Lots of helpful reading here if you’re interested in trying this at home!