This was our 3rd year making maple syrup and each year is a new learning experience for us. Our 3rd year is much different than our first year. We stepped it up a notch and upped production. Mind you, our maple syrup production is nowhere near Fulton’s or even our neighbours for that matter but it is ours, and that makes it special.
So here is a look at how we made maple syrup this year with some step-by-step instructions to help you out incase you want to start your own backyard sugar experience.
First, you need your materials to tap and you need to know when to tap. This year we were a bit eager with early warm weather and tapped a bit too early but it didn’t harm anything and we still got enough sap to boil. Usually we tap the last week of March (this year we tapped mid-March).
What you need:
-Snowshoes (the snow is usually quite deep and it makes it easier to access the trees)
-Buckets & Lids (lids are important because it will keep rain/snow out)
-Spiels (this is how the sap comes out of the tree)
-Drill (with a 7/16 drill bit)
-Hammer (to put the spiel in the tree)
We already know where our maple trees are located but if you plan on tapping maple trees I suggest you know your trees well or mark them in the Summer/Fall while they still have their leaves on them. You don’t want to end up tapping an oak!
To tap your trees you need a drill bit that is 7/16 and you need to drill a hole (on a slight upward angle) 2 to 2.5 inches deep. After you drill the hole, place the spiel in the hole and gently hammer it in. Place the bucket on the spiel and then attach the lid.
You will want to check on your buckets daily and collect the sap. We store ours in carboys. To collect it we go around with an extra bucket to collect the sap and then using a funnel with a filter we pour the sap into the carboy. The filter helps to stop any bugs/dirt that has collected in the bucket.
It takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup. The hardest part about making your own maple syrup is boiling it, and it’s not because it is hard work but because it is very time consuming. We usually boil when we have roughly 100 litres of sap and that takes us around 8-10 (if not more) hours to boil. The more sap you have the longer it is going to take to boil, which is why we do, a couple boils. This year we used a turkey fryer with propane. It can get expensive having to fill up the propane tanks and the cost of the turkey fryer + the pot to boil in was not cheap.
Once most of the water has been evaporated it will start to look like syrup (and taste like syrup), when the temperature is around 217F, Mike will go out to the shed and sit and wait until it is ready to be bottled. Constantly checking with a thermometer and waiting for it to reach a temperature of 222F. This is the temperature when the sap turns to syrup and starts to foam up which means it is done.
When it has finished boiling we quickly bring it inside to transfer it into bottles. Using a pot, measuring cup, funnel and cheesecloth, we pour the syrup into the bottles and then we have our finished product.
This year we ended up with 9 litres of syrup. Which will be enough for us to get through the year as well as being able to give away a couple bottles to friends and family.
The best part about making maple syrup this year was that our daughter Lux got to be a part of it. She was 2 weeks old when we did our first boil. She helped us collect the sap and she slept while we made the finished product. Many people told us that we “wouldn’t have time to do maple syrup with a newborn”. Well, they were wrong.