It's maple tapping season! With the temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, the sap is running in the trees, and it's time to make syrup.
Each year from around 2000 - 2015, my family would head outside with a drill, taps, and 5 gallon buckets (in the early years, we used milk jugs), and we would tap our and our neighbors' maple trees. This year, after a 5 year break, we are repeating the project!
Do you want to join us? Using a 19/64" drill bit, drill a hole about 3' from the bottom of your tree and go in about 2" deep. Drill at a slightly upward angle to facilitate the downward flow of the sap from the hole. Then insert a tap with the tubing entering into a small hole in the lid of your 5 gallon bucket and secure the bucket to your tree using bungee cords.
Although sugar maples are the best for producing syrup due to their high sugar content, any type of maple tree will work. The tree must be at a minimum of 12" in diameter to place 1 tap, and if it has a diameter of more than 20", it can take 2 taps. On a good day, we might collect about 3 gallons of sap from 1 tree and only a quart the next. The amount all depends on the weather.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, and each tree gives about 10 gallons of sap per season. As your buckets become full, collect the sap, dump it through a cheesecloth filter to remove any sediment, bugs, or twigs, and store your sap in a large pot placed in a snowbank outside to keep it cold. Once you have enough sap, begin boiling it down at a temperature of 212° F. As the sap thickens into syrup, use a candy thermometer to check the temperature and remove it once it reaches 219° F.
Unfortunately, we've gathered very little sap this year as we mistakenly used a larger drill bit when tapping a week ago, but on Sunday, my oldest brother and his fiancée collected what sap was available, boiled it down, and received 1/4 cup of maple syrup. We'll continue to collect sap as long as the temperature is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.
Drilling holes into trees. Trudging through the snow to collect sap. Boiling it down. Sticky fingers. This is maple season.
Special thanks to Randy Morris from Morris Organic Farm in Irwin, PA for his giving us taps years ago. He is currently making syrup that will be available for sale.