How to Make Maple Syrup
How to Make Maple Syrup
The maple sugaring season in New Hampshire usually lasts about six weeks from mid-February to mid-April, depending on the location. When nighttime temperatures are below freezing and daytime wind chill temperatures rise to 35 F or more, the sap begins to run.
It will not run every day if weather conditions are not right. Ideal conditions for good sap runs occur on sunny days with little wind and temperatures in the 40s after a night of temperatures in the 20s. Maple syrup is produced when the sap of the maple tree is boiled down to the density of syrup. Nothing is added, and only water is removed. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple to make one gallon of maple syrup
The following steps are only the basics of maple sugaring for those interested in making syrup for their own use. To sell commercially, other requirements must be met. More detailed information can be found in “Maple Syrup Producers Manual”, “Sweet Maple”, “Backyard Sugarin” or any of a number of other maple sugaring handbooks.
- Select a healthy-looking maple tree that is at least 12 inches in diameter at about chest height for one tap. Trees eighteen inches or more in diameter can accommodate two taps. Do not over tap. Sugar maples provide the sweetest sap, although black, red, silver, and Manitoba (box elder) maples can also be tapped. During a good season, one tap in the average sugar maple will give about ten gallons of sap, yielding about one quart of syrup. When tapping any of these other maples, more sap is required to make a quart of syrup. Tap holes will usually dry up in about 6 weeks, so its best not to tap much before the season begins.
- Basic equipment you will need for just a few taps: Drill, hammer, spiles (spouts), buckets with covers (or special plastic sap bags or tubing), collection pail or barrel (plastic juice barrels work fine), tank or barrel for storing sap, large pan to boil sap, white felt or paper filters, large kitchen strainer to hold the filter, two or more large pots or kettles, accurate candy thermometer, (hydrometer is optional), a funnel and jars or jugs for bottling the finished product.
- Use only food grade pails and containers and be sure all of your equipment and containers are clean and rinsed thoroughly with hot water, as soap residue will flavor the syrup. Never use containers that once held toxic materials.
- At about 2-4 ft. above ground level (not snow level), 6 or more inches away from old tap holes, and using a 5/16″ drill for health spouts (7/16″ for older-type spiles), drill a hole in the tree at a slightly upward angle about 1 ” deep. Check to be sure your hole is not in dark brown wood. Tap on any side of the tree, but a tap on the sunny side will run earlier.
- With a hammer, gently tap spile (spout) into the hole and hang a covered bucket, plastic sap bag, or attach plastic tubing to the spile.
- Collect and filter accumulated sap each day, keeping it cold to prevent souring.
- Completely boil each run of sap daily, using a large, clean, open pan. The larger the opening at the top of the pan, the faster the water will evaporate. While this is boiling, watch your evaporator pan to be sure it doesn’t go dry and burn. Boil until product reaches 7.5 degrees F. above the boiling point of water for that day.(or 59 Brix or 32 Baume on the hydrometer). The bulk of the boiling should be done outside of the house, as large amounts of steam will cause wallpaper to peel. When syrup nears the proper density, it will foam up. When this happens, reduce heat or touch foam with just a drop of cooking oil or butter. It will recede almost immediately. Be careful not to burn the syrup with too hot a fire.
- When syrup has reached the proper temperature or density, remove it from the pan and filter it through a wet, clean, white felt or paper filter. Be sure filters are free of odors. Syrup will pass through filters best when boiling hot. After rinsing filter, squeeze out excess water, do not wring.
- If youre bottling syrup in plastic jugs, cool the syrup to 180 – 190 F. before filling. Syrup can be poured into glass canning jars at a higher temperature. After filling each plastic jug, seal and lay on its side for several minutes before standing them upright. Space upright containers so they will cool quickly. When packaged properly, syrup will keep well at room temperature. Refrigerate after opening.
- When the buds first appear on the tapped tree, its time to pull your taps. Perhaps they have already dried up. Sap from budding trees makes an unpleasant-tasting syrup.
- Clean your equipment during and at the end of the season, but do not use soap.