Tapped our Silver Maple yesterday - won't get much yet, but got to catch it sooner rather than later. The weather is so variable and sometimes we get heat so fast it's very easy to miss the chance!
MArie, can you direct me to a site that has explicit directions on tapping and how to make or where to buy the necessary tools/equipment? I have a bazillion "sugar maple" trees and would like to try this. Also, how do you go about cooking down the sap? I am under the impression it takes days to reduce down to syrup. Do you have a separate stove or do you do it in your kitchen?
Ok, The easiest place to get stuff is still in the gift shop of the Landscape Arboretum - they have the best info on just how to get started and you can buy a little one or two tree set up. I have a Silver Maple tapped, I like it's syrup better than Sugar Maple actually - a lot of folks don't realize they make VERY nice mild syrup and have a decent sap output - one a normal human or three can keep up with :)
We have a small propane tank and a cheap outdoor two burner stove. We store up the sap for a couple days before we start - into the range of many quarts or gallons or it's not worth it - I run fill one big stock pot with sap, boil it down to about 1/4 and move it to the other burner and start a second pot. The second pot feeds the first and is the one I keep pouring clear sap into. You do this until you are back down to one pot which is getting very dark in color, but not thickening just yet (usually at about the 1/3 left in the pot stage) before I bring it in. If you try and do it all in your kitchen you'll have no paint or wallpaper left and a nice rainshower ;) that's kind of the running joke... except even boiling down the last stage shows you it isn't! You boil it down until well... that's where the hand little book comes in that you can pick up at the Arb - the other place to get supplies is Lehman's online (awesome stuff there... you should check them out anyway) website is literally www.lehmans.com - the syrup stage is a matter of temp, texture, how it sheets off a spatula, and "feeling". I've done it enough years now to have it down pretty well. It's a pain to do but OH it tastes SO GOOD! You won't believe how little syrup to sap though... I'm not shocked by it so much anymore as our tree is really healthy and gives us a pretty high sugar content in it's sap (hydrometer readings) some folks have it as low as 2% which would be pretty tough - ours runs 3-4%.
Thanks, Marie. I will check out Lehmans for now and next time I am in the mood for a road trip I'll head down to the arb.
If I can master this maple tapping thing, I can get our property tax base changed to agricultural which will reduce our taxes by a big chunk! Have to have your land "in production", so maple syrup and Christmas trees are in my future!
Linda, it's very easy; we've been tapping our maples for years. First of all, don't tap the little guys, they can't handle the stress. We put in around 60 taps, using milk jugs which we empty once or twice a day, depending on the rate at which the sap is running. A 60 gallon drum works nicely for storing the sap--we keep it in the shade in a snowbank if possible. Once the drum is full we cook the sap down over an OUTDOOR fire. The wood is split and stacked and ready to go. DH made what I call the 'Ark'; it's a homemade grill which will accomodate 2 large pans on top. Takes a long day and into the night to cook down the sap. You'll need a hydrometer to measure specific gravity if you want to make sure you've cooked the sap down enough. A trip to your local sugar shack (maple syrup making operation ) will be very helpful. They're quite active this time of year, getting ready.
This is such a fun family activity. And you will save a small fortune on maple syrup!
Good luck, and have a great time--
Most of the "close" sugar shacks are in Wis. *laugh* though the one at the Arboretum is excellent - but she mentioned already that that's quite a trip for her.
We have just one HUGE tree, better than big enough for the two taps we put in it annually. We get enough syrup for our family of three and most of our friends.
It IS fun!
Okay, here's another question. Once you have your syrup cooked down, how to you store/preserve it? Does it need to be refrigerated? Or canned? What is the shelf life?
I let it sit overnight then pour the clear stuff off the top into a fresh pan. You can filter it but it's very tricky and extremely messy! Reheat just to the boil and pour into canning jars with good fresh lids. I just run it through a little cheesecloth and wind up with a bit of sludge in the bottom of my jars. Put the lids on FAST and invert them for 10 mins to seal them. It works. The lids will seal as the jars cool. The shelflife is undetermined *laugh* I've had some keep a couple years no problem. Thing is, it's kinda touchy as you are learning - you may wind up with weird sugar formations in the bottoms of your jars - it means you didn't get the right amount of water out so the sugar has precipitated. It's still very edible and the sugar is yummy if you can get it out of the jar, but not exactly what you are shooting for. If jars don't seal, stick them in the 'fridge - they'll last there for ages. It's kind of like honey, it seams to have a lot of anti-microbial properties once the syrup reaches a certain stage. Some people get a little mold on it once it's opened, but I haven't had that problem, just the sugar crystals.
Now realize this is for smallish batches - elvis can probably help with larger sized ones - or it'll be online somewhere - I seem to recall finding several decent sites!
Thanks, preserving sounds pretty easy. I have looked at a few sites and printed off some more info. Last year Wild River State Park had a maple sugaring educational "event". I will have to see if they plan to have it again this year and go.
Help! I have a huge silver maple in my backyard (SE Michigan) - I was really excited to get going on some minor syrup production this year. I got a really good flow one day, and then everything stopped. The tree is about 3 feet in diameter, and I have 3 taps on it. Weather has been perfect - high 20's at night and mid- to upper-40s in the daytime. Why would it flow one day and then stop? Taps were drilled according to all directions I've seen - about 3" deep, etc. My yard is REALLY wet - standing water that I'm pumping out. Any insight?
We've all had issues - bad enough that there was an article in the NY Times the other week that it's not going to be a great year. I've gotten some, but the past few days just a slow drip (too warm at night) Three taps on that tree though technically ok I personally wouldn't risk. We have a rather larger tree and stick to two so that we have safe places to tap the next year (you can't tap closer than 8" from a previous year's tap as it hasn't fully healed yet - takes a couple years) Don't want to stress our wonderful bounty there. No, it's just a bad year - it's because of the erratic temperatures this past winter.
Of all the years to get excited about doing this, I pick the down year... Oh well - thank you for the response, and good luck!
Marie, how is it going with the maple tapping this year? Is it all over with or are you still working on it? And was it a better year than last? I hope so!