How to Make Maple Syrup

Tap a couple trees and serve delicious, golden goodness on homemade pancakes.

| January/February 2010

Envision a steaming stack of fluffy pancakes on your breakfast plate, warm butter and sweet maple syrup dripping off the edges. Now imagine how good it all would taste with your own homemade, old-fashioned syrup pouring from the pitcher. Can you say “yummy”? Believe it or not, even you can make your own pure maple syrup – and the reward is sweet, indeed.

“So you’re really going to drill into the tree?” That question – posed by my wife – caused me to hesitate for a few moments as I contemplated plunging a 7/16-inch drill bit into one of the silver maples that grace our backyard. Undeterred by the lack of confidence in her tone, I angled my drill bit at a slight incline and drilled a hole about two inches deep into the trunk of the tree. Pulling a metal spout, or “spile,” out of my pocket, I tapped the spile into the drilled hole, and within seconds I was rewarded with a drop of clear fluid that I hoped would eventually end up on a stack of warm pancakes.

While many people associate maple syrup production with vast forests of maple trees, it only takes a few trees to produce enough syrup for personal consumption. Anyone who is somewhat handy, possesses some basic tools and has access to a few suitable trees can make her own maple syrup.

It is interesting to note that maple syrup and maple sugar are some of the oldest agricultural commodities produced in the United States. The art of making maple syrup in the Americas is generally attributed to Native Americans, who passed on those skills to early European settlers.

Native Americans harvested maple syrup by gashing maple trees with an ax and collecting the sap in bark baskets. They then allowed the sap to partially freeze to remove some of the water as ice and concentrate the sugars. To process the sap into syrup or sugar, they boiled the sap down further over an open flame or by dropping hot rocks into the containers that held the sap. Traveling to the “sugar bush,” an area with heavy concentrations of maple trees, was an annual early spring event that was crucial to the Native American hunter/gatherer existence. Many families or clans returned to the same sugar bush every year for generations.

Even though the process of producing syrup is essentially the same as that practiced by Native Americans – gathering sap and boiling it down into syrup – we have made it more efficient over time.

9/24/2015 9:56:17 AM

Making maple syrup at home is the best spring hobby! We were able to make two gallons of sap from the trees in our yard this year. It's really a wonderful hobby and our family can't wait to tap the trees again next spring! We purchased our maple tree tapping kit supplies from Kaito Ridge here:

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