Urban Maple Syrup

Our maple with two taps in itI don’t know if our location should really be considered “urban” but our sugaring operation is a far cry from when I worked at Fair Oaks Farm a couple years ago.  We have four pretty large sugar maples in our back yard so we could probably produce a reasonable amount of syrup but it still won’t compare with tapping sixty trees and pumping the sap up to a continually operating evaporator pan.

Tapping trees is pretty easy to do.  I was a little concerned we wouldn’t be able to find stiles (taps) easily but luckily our town has an awesome local hardware store called Kleindorfer’s and they have everything you could possibly imagine (and a bunch of other stuff).  My dad lent us his cordless drill and a 5/16″ drill bit and we went to work.  Our maple trees are large enough that we could have put in 3-4 taps per tree but I could only scrounge up two containers so we just put in two taps.  First I drilled the hole, then pounded in the stile, then hung the sap collection container (e.g. empty juice jug).

A maple tap in our treeOf course, collecting the sap is only the first part.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.  The general method is to boil the sap to concentrate it into syrup, although if it stays cold enough I might try the alternate method of freezing it and letting it thaw (the sugariest part thaws first and you can then remove the watery ice).  If it comes down to boiling, I plan to use the crock pot outside with the lid off.  (I have a friend who accidentally stripped all the wallpaper off her kitchen walls from generating 30 gallons of maple steam.)

If we’d been really good we probably would have set the taps a couple weeks ago.  The sap was flowing as we drilled the holes, which was exciting but definitely a sign that we got a late start.  I’m hoping we can make about a half gallon of syrup from our two taps, which would be plenty to last us for the year.  We might also try to make some maple soda from unrefined sap as another fun home project.  We’ll keep you posted.

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Farmer's Daughter said,

    March 6, 2009 @ 12:14 am

    How are you going to boil the sap? Both my husband’s family and my family make syrup, but we have evaporators. Are you just going to do it on the stove?

    I’ve been wondering if I could tap trees on a small scale with my Botany students and then it down. I’d love to see an update from you when you boil.


  2. 2

    Will said,

    March 6, 2009 @ 12:50 am

    We tried using the crock pot, but it never got hot enough (my old crock pot, which doubled as a deep fryer would have worked, but alas it cracked years ago).

    Now we’re boiling on the stove. So far, so good!

  3. 3

    Farmer John said,

    March 6, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

    I’m so jealous, I’m out on the West Coast and seeing those sap buckets just makes my mouth water. I wish we had something so wonderful here. We can’t even grow sorghum or sugar cane for sweetness because it is too cool during the summers. However, we do have lots of bees!

  4. 4

    Maggie said,

    March 6, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

    Farmer John –
    I’m not super familiar with your neck of the woods but you can make maple syrup out of any kind of maple tree and I’m pretty sure there are a few varieties in California and Oregon. You can also make syrup out of birch trees although it takes a lot more sap (http://www.birchboy.com/articles.html). I think there’s another species of tree that can be tapped… Hickory? I think those live in California too.

    Besides, those of us who live through cold winters with no fresh produce deserve a little bit of sweetness in the spring! 🙂

    And you have delights of your own out west. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a good avocado, olive, or almond tree…

  5. 5

    Busy Like Bees | GreenCouple.com said,

    April 7, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

    […] to the aforementioned business, our maple syrup operation turned out to be a bust.  We collected about 10 gallons of sap and boiled it down to […]

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