Maple Syrup Part 1: Tapping

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Have you ever wondered how people take something from a tree and turn it into a treat as wonderful as maple syrup, or if you could make maple syrup from home? It is possible, although it is not as easy as growing a zucchini!

Where You Can Tap

First of all, make sure you live in an area where it is possible to tap maple trees.  Syrup will only run in cold tempters, so if you live in the deep south of the United States you won’t be able to tap. The best place to live if you want to tap maples is in the south east part of the country. If you have freezing cold nights and then warm days, you live in an area where you can tap!

What Trees to Tap

Sugar maples are the most common variety of maple trees used for tapping because their sap contains more sugar and will produce higher quality syrup. Sugar maples can easily be mistaken for other varieties of maple trees, so you might want to take some time to learn the characteristics of different maple trees before you begin tapping. Once you have learned to identify sugar maples correctly, mark each sugar maple so you will be able to tell them apart from other trees in the winter. I would advise marking them in the summer or fall when the leaves will be easer to tell apart.

   Containers

You can use just about any type of clean container to collect sap, as long as you make sure that the weight of the sap won’t cause the container to fall from the spout. It would be heartbreaking to plan, prepare, and put the work into this project only to find the buckets or containers littering the ground after the first day. Some people suggest you use buckets, while others would suggest you use old plastic milk jugs; the first of these two will be by far the more pleasing on the eyes, but if you can collect jugs for a while, the second can be much easier on your pocket-book! There are also plastic bags made for collecting sap that you might want to look into buying. The main purpose of the containers is to hang from the spout and catch the sap – we will talk more about that in a few minutes! If you are trying to decide on what type of container to use, I would advise something with a lid, so that nothing can fall or blow into your syrup. Now it is time for us to think about spouts.

Spouts

Some people whittle their own spouts for tapping, which is a very interesting thing to do, and very self-sufficient. Personally, I would advise that if possible you buy metal spouts; they are expensive, but they are also reusable, and your time is worth a lot. However, if whittling spouts sounds like a fun endeavor to you, go for it!

What Not to Tap

Don’t tap trees that have multiple dead branches; you won’t get as much sap from a sick tree as a healthy one, so why add the stress to your life along with the trees?

How to Tap

You will need to send the spout into the tree, so that the sap can come out and run along the spout into the bucket or jug. To drive the spouts into the trees you will need a drill and a hammer. To begin, take the drill and drill a hole in the tree; remember, do not put the hole so high that it will be hard to remove heavy pails from the tree. Drill the hole about 2 ½” deep into the tree; be careful as you do this, you want a clean hole, not a chipped cracked mess. If there is a hole that is not covered by the spout, sap will escape the spout and you won’t get as much syrup.

What Tree is Too Small to Tap?

You can tap any healthy sugar maple that is more tan 10 inches in diameter, but don’t tap any that are smaller than 10 inches. Leave alone small trees and eventually you will have the chance to tap them once they get larger.

Finish Tapping

Now, once you are done drilling, you are ready to put the spouts into their place! Place the spouts back-end into the hole in the tree and carefully send it into the tree with a hammer, the same way you would drive a nail. Make sure the spout is well situated; you don’t want it falling out once the container is attached to it!

Hooks

If you want to be extra confident that your bucket will hang on, you can get a hook that will go around the spout and connect to the bucket.  Some buckets need hooks to be able to hang from the spout, so seriously think about getting hooks.

Hanging the Containers

Now just hang your pail, bucket, bag, or jug to the hook and wait for sap to begin flowing!

Checking on the Sap

You will have to check the sap twice a day some days to see if the pail is full; if it is, just poor the sap into a pail you will be collecting with and put the empty container back onto the spout!

When to Start 

You will want to start this process about a month before the snow will melt away for the winter.

How to Quit Tapping

If you start collecting sap and then decide you really hate the whole process, don’t run yourself ragged. Just pull the spouts out of the tree and call it a year. Or if you have discovered that you can’t keep up with as much as you have taken on, pull out a few spouts and start working with a more manageable number.

Evaporation

To find out about the evaporation process with maple syrup, follow this magical link and it will take you to the second part of this post!

Keep Studying

If you are really interested in understanding the tapping process and serious about tapping for syrup, make this the first step to your studies. The internet is covered with information, and as I always say, you can’t beat a good book when it comes to learning

Let Me Hear From You

Also, before you leave don’t forget to add a comment with any questions you might have and I will get back to you. I can’t wait to talk to all of you!

About Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith is the owner of Fauna Preciosa, a brand designed to help small business owners. It also equips individuals to be better able to provide for themselves, while discovering new art and craft ideas. She also sells her own hand crafted items at craft festivals and through Fauna Preciosa's Etsy shop. If you are interested in following her work, check out Fauna Preciosa's blog or Facebook page.

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