How to make Maple Syrup

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In many places in the northeast and midwest, maple syrup season signals the start of spring, and there's no replacement for real, natural maple syrup. After you have it, those high fructose laden "pancake syrups" that you see in the grocery store will never do. 
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Step 1: Find your trees

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Start off by finding a tree. There are several types of maples, and although the sugar maple is the best because it has the highest sugar content, any maple tree will work. A maple tree should have leaves and seeds that look like this. There are also  many websites that can help you identify a maple by the bark. (Thanks to for the pic). The tree needs to be a minimum of 12" in diameter, and if your tree is more than 20" in diameter it can take two taps. 

Many other trees other than maples can be used. Pecan trees make a fabulous syrup, but I've heard of people using sweet gum, birch, box elder, among others. Each species will have it's own unique flavor. 

Step 2: Add the Spiles

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Get your spile (the tap that goes into the tree). These are only a couple of bucks apiece and can be found all over the internet. You will want to drill a hole, typically 5/16" (the spile will tell you what size to drill) a couple of inches deep into the trunk. Try to drill about chest height, and drill slightly upward to help the sap drip downward. Then, using a small hammer or mallet, drive the spile into hole you drilled. A one gallon bucket works well for me, but you can use any size you like. Just remember, the larger the bucket the less frequently you'll need to empty it, but the heavier it will be. 

Some large scale producers use hoses and vacuum lines to pull the sap from the tree and to a storage tank, but if you're only tapping a few trees in your backyard, that isn't necessary.