Before the leaves fall off the trees, we wanted to be sure to mark our sugar maples. Come springtime, we didn’t want to have any confusion about which trees to tap.
Truth be told, you can tap many different kinds of trees for edible sap. Folks have been known to make many different kinds of syrup from black walnuts, butternuts, birch, and others. The flavor of each syrup is unique, but none has the sweetness that makes the sugar maple so adored.
Walking our property, we discovered no fewer than a dozen sugar maples. We marked each by tying it with a piece of sisal twine. In the spring, we will come back to each marked tree and drill a shallow hole (about 1 1/2″ deep) upwards into the tree at about three feet from the ground. We will insert spiles, hang buckets, and collect the sap.
This is the easy part.
Making syrup is a time-consuming endeavor. This past spring, our friend Sue had made all the syrup she could stand to make, but still had sap flowing freely from her trees. Being the excellent human that she is, she offered it up rather than letting it go to waste. Being the opportunistic scavengers that we are, we were more than happy to take it off her hands.
Sue gave us 25 gallons (!) of sap and all we had to do was come and get it.
We spent the following three days boiling that sap down to syrup. Starting outside, we placed our deepest stockpot onto our portable burner attached to a propane tank and proceeded to boil. Once the sap had reduced to almost a tenth of its original volume, we moved it inside and finished it on the stove. When the three days were up, the 25 gallons of sap had been cooked down into three quarts of dark, beautiful maple syrup.
Yep. Three quarts.
But, by then, we were hooked.
We are filled with a combined excited anticipation and overwhelming dread for this spring’s flow of our very own sap.
Just one more stop on the road to self-sufficiency.