Making maple syrup was a native American tradition. Legend has it that a chiefs wife boiled venison in the sap collected from a maple tree that he was using for tomahawk practice. They enjoyed the sweet flavor and soon the process of making syrup and sugar evolved.
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Step 1: How Much Sap Do I Need?
Sap can be collected from most maple trees, even from Birch or Box Elder trees. The Sugar Maple has the highest concentration of sugar in the sap.
Sap needs to be collected in the spring when the daytime temperatures are above freezing but below 40F. and the nights are frosty.
To make 1 gallon of syrup will take about 40 gallons of sap, depending on sugar content. So if the sap contains 2% sugar you need 43 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. Sap from a Sugar Maple is typically 2.5% concentration, so you would need about 34 gallons of sap.
Shown are leafs from the sugar maple and red maple
Step 2: Collecting the Sap
You can purchase taps and other supplies from online stores like
or you can rig up your own from small diameter tubing or pipe.
I usually collect sap in old 2.5 gallon water jugs tied to the tree under the tap. I use a short piece of plastic tubing running from the tap into the jug. To place the tap in the tree, I drill about a ½ in diameter hole(depending on the tap size) about 1 inch deep into the sapwood below the bark of the tree.
Step 3: Boiling the Sap
On my cast iron fire pit I place some concrete block spacers and top them with an old refrigerator grate. I boil and boil and boil, continually filling the center boiling pot from the warming pot, until all the sap is gone. To boil down 40 gallons of sap could take 2 full days.
Step 4: Finishing
The sap will eventually turn brownish in color and become thicker. Once I have a thin, sweet syrup, I finish boiling on my stove in the house to thicken it.
Once the syrup has cooled down I pour it through a cloth (a few times) placed in a strainer basket over a clean pot.
The syrup will be dark and have a smoky flavor, which I like. If that is a taste you don’t think you’d enjoy, then let me introduce you to Aunt Jemima.