Maple tree. Maple sap. Maple syrup. Breakfast. It may seem like a daunting leap from one to the next, but with the right tools and a healthy dose of will, you can glean sap from your backyard tree and turn it into delicious maple syrup. In mature trees, sap runs most rampant in February and March, when temps are freezing at night and thawing during daylight hours. Give it a shot, or just learn how and say you did.
- You’re looking for the four most commonly tapped maple trees: sugar, black, red, and silver maples.
- In order to tap your maple trees to gather the sap you need for making syrup, your trees must be at least a foot in diameter. The diameter correlates directly to how many taps you can create per tree: if the tree is between 12-20 inches, you insert one spile (metal tap); 21-27 inches calls for two, and trees greater than 27 inches can support three spiles.
- You can expect to get 5-15 gallons of sap per tap per season — it takes an average of 40 parts maple sap to make 1 part maple syrup, so 10 gallons of sap will make about 1 quart of maple syrup.
- Tap the tree about 3 ft up on the tree's south side, aiming for a spot above a root or below a branch, and avoiding damaged areas altogether.
- Using either a 7/16 or 5/16 bit, drill a hole 2 to 2 ½ inches deep at a slight upward angle to help encourage the downward flow of sap. If the shavings from the drilled tap hole are light brown, you’ve got healthy sapwood. If the shavings are dark brown, try drilling another hole in a different location until you get light brown shavings.
- If you're inserting more than one tap per tree, drill the tap holes around the circumference of the tree, distributing evenly, and make sure to avoid any damaged areas.
- Clear away the wood shavings from the edge of the hole. Insert the spile into the loop on the hook, hook facing outward, then place the spile into the tap hole. Using a hammer, lightly tap the spile into the tree (no pounding — pounding could cause the wood to split). If you’re lucky and the sap is flowing, you’ll see sap dripping from the spile right away.
- Now to collect the sap. Hang the bucket off of the hook, then attach the lid by inserting the metal wire into the double holes on the spile.
- Collect the sap daily and store at 38 degrees or below. Stop collecting when the temps rise and stay consistently above freezing, and/or buds appear on the tree.