Did you know maple trees make syrup? Crazy, right? Did you know you can learn to tap your own maple trees to make syrup? Let me share with you what I’ve learned and why I’m NOT tapping my own maple trees (at least, for now).
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I Had Maple Syrup Dreams
I was sent a copy of Rich Finzer’s Maple on Tap, a straightforward little tome on learning how to make your own maple syrup. Last year I read it in a sudden burst of brilliance and planning.
You see, I was going to figure out how to tap my own maple trees on the homestead. Now, I had no idea how this was going to happen but I was tired of paying so much for beautiful, healthful Grade B Syrup at my local health food store.
I was sure Mr. Finzer could teach me how to DIY this one!
Maple Trees for Maple on Tap?
The first thing I learned from my reading was that you don’t need maple trees to get syrup. A lot of different trees can be tapped for their sugary sap, which is then turned into syrup. Here’s a great post by Homestead Honey on how they tapped their Black Walnut trees. This family is in Missouri, where we plan to move so I was reading this post with keen interest. She also has a thorough article about getting ready for backyard tapping – click here to read that.
Homestead Honey has a really awesome book on building your own outdoor pizza oven, by the way. You’ll be out there watching your maple sap boil down for a loooooong time – some pizza would be welcome. Just sayin’.
Maple Tree Facts
Maple on Tap focuses on maple trees and how to tap them yourself. I learned that this is a uniquely North American product and activity because of the climate and native maple tree populations.
I also learned that the three main maple tree species:
All these types can be grown on the same woodlot. This concept has become increasingly important to me the more I learn about permaculture. Here’s a permaculture profile of the maple tree – click here. It’s disturbing to read that Vermont maple are declining! I think planting as many sugar maples as we can is a civic duty. Don’t you?
Raw Syrup to Maple Syrup Magic
What amazed me most about making your own maple syrup, though, was that it takes 40 gallons of raw syrup to get 1 gallon of maple syrup! Or, as Finzer puts it,
“You’ve got to boil a river of maple sap to produce a puddle of syrup.”
The syrup doesn’t boil itself, either. You and your helpers have to sit around while all that sap boils to the right consistency, flavor and water content. Suddenly, my paying the going rate at the health food store wasn’t seeming like too much to ask.
Maple on Tap was an easy read for a total maple tapping novice like me because it includes:
- An excellent glossary
- Clearly arranged and organized steps in the process of maple tapping
- Lots of practical DIY tips
- down to earth advice
Plus, Finzer’s prose is light and easy to read.
He emphasizes the basics for people just learning how to tap their own maples. The thing he mentions most often? Wood.
He’s constantly reminding you to make sure you have enough wood to burn for your whole sap-boiling endeavor. He’s run out before and he knows firsthand how that is simply not a good thing.
In fact, one of the things I like most about this book is that it’s honest.
He shares his mistakes with us and the things he’s learned to do differently.
“So, what did we do wrong that first year?” he quips, “Practically everything.”
Mr. Finzer shares his DIY tips and his recommendations for the items he purchases throughout the book. He gives you options from which to choose and allows that you might want to do something different. Rich encourages you to experiment and continue to learn.
Maple Syrup Making with Kids?
Speaking of learning, Maple on Tap also encourages you to make maple tapping a family affair. Finzer says,
“If you have young children, helping’ Mom or Dad is a reasonably safe activity they can participate in along with your supervision.”
Although he recommends that boiling the sap should be reserved for older children and teenagers.
Maple Syrup DIY?
Ultimately, after reading Maple on Tap, I decided that tapping my own maples is not something I’m ready for yet. For one thing, I don’t have enough trees where I am right now. When we move to the next homestead, I’m hopeful we’ll have a goodly number of trees to eye for tapping in the future. Let’s face it, there are only so many things on person can reasonably be expected to do at once. I’m at my limit right now.
However, I think that Maple on Tap served it’s purpose for me. Sometimes, the greatest thing an author can do for their reader is to convince them to forgo a venture, at least for a time, by laying out the facts.
However, for those who are ready to embrace this totally plausible venture (Finzer has great instructions), I hope you’ll check out Maple on Tap to help guide you through. For one thing, you have to read the section where he talks about how he makes the whole boiling down process go more efficiently – it’s really cool.
Maple Trees Tapping Tools
Another great resource for your maple tapping adventures is Maple Tapper, an online purveyor of tapping tools, equipment and literature. They’re here to help; here it is in their own words:
Are you new to maple sugaring or a first-timer wondering if this is for you? Don’t fret or be intimidated by taking on this hobby. Yes, it does seem daunting at first but we promise that once you’ve done it, you’ll be amazed by how simple and straightforward the entire process is and by what a great family and outdoor winter activity sugarmaking can be. Once you’ve been through this first season, you’ll have the tools, the knowledge, and the experience to easily do it again next year – and you’ll probably be looking for even more maple trees!
And don’t forget, you have Maple Tapper with you and we’re not going to leave you alone in the woods! We’ve filled our website and blog with inspiration and information. We will answer every question sent to us and keep growing our forum with questions from folks just like you. Every kit comes with an 80-page book filled with details and instructions for every step including photos, recipes, and more. Also included is a take-along instruction sheet that you can carry with you as you tap your trees. Both pieces were written by a professional writer (who’s also a sugarmaker) and she researched everything thoroughly, interviewed professionals, and took pictures of the entire process.
We know you’re going to love this new hobby. So jump in, tap a tree, and see what sweet things happen!
Be sure to check out their website for tools, books and help!