Sunday, April 14, 2013

You Can Make Maple Syrup (Seriously...It's Easy!)

If you can answer "yes" to these 3 questions, then you too, can make your own pure maple syrup:
  1. Do you have a maple tree in your yard?
  2. Do you love pure maple syrup?
  3. Do you love saving money?
All you need is ONE maple tree!  In fact, if you get going today, you could have syrup in as little as 2 days...seriously!  If you don't have a maple tree, maybe a friend or neighbor does, so you could make this a joint venture.

And don't worry about what kind of maple you have or how much sap it takes to get what yield, because I discovered ANY maple tree will work!  And while Sugar Maples are preferred by maple syrup producers for the greatest yield, don't let that stop you, because we don't have a Sugar Maple (I think ours is a Soft Maple) and in just 2 weeks we have 1.5 gallons of syrup!

I know my blogs are usually about natural skincare topics (I make and sell SkinKissed Naturals - natural skincare products), but I care about healthy, natural food just as much as I care about natural skincare products!  And since the sap is flowing like crazy right now where we live (in Somerset, WI), if you have maple trees in your yard and this sounds like something you'd like to try, then let's get to it and make some maple syrup!  Besides, what else is there to do in crazy April weather like this?

Today we'll cover finding the right tree(s) and getting them tapped.  Then tomorrow we'll cover the nutritional benefits of maple syrup and how to boil the sap down and store your finished syrup.

What You Need To Get Started... 
Our next door neighbors were originally from out east, where maple syrup is a really big deal, and they gave us their equipment before they moved to Florida.  They convinced me it was easy and I really could do it...and so can you...I'll tell you how!

Here's what you need to get started:
  1. Any maple tree that's at least 10" in diameter
  2. The right temperatures outside
  3. A drill
  4. A tap (also known as a "spile") which our hardware store carries for $2.99 each
  5. A clean, non-rusted, handled bucket or clean gallon milk jug for collecting the sap
  6. 1-2 large storage buckets (like a 5 gallon plastic bucket) to store the sap
  7. One large stainless steel pot to start the boil
  8. One smaller stainless steel pot to finish the syrup
  9. A candy thermometer
  10. Filtering material (optional)
  11. Clean mason jars
That's it!  But don't delay, because the syrup is flowing NOW and you can start today with just the first 5 things listed above!  Then you can worry about gathering the rest of the items needed to complete the job.  So let's break these steps down.

The Right Tree, The Right Conditions
First you need to find a maple tree that is at least 10-12 inches in diameter.  Then you need to make sure the weather/temperature conditions are right.

When the weather is below freezing (32 degrees Farenheit) at night and above freezing during the day, it's time to tap the trees!  These are the conditions that cause the sap in the trees to flow.  In Wisconsin where we live, this is usually some time in March.  We've been at this for a couple weeks already, but the sap is still flowing with this crazy weather we're having (I am so OVER this snow in April thing, but it is good for getting maple syrup!).

The diameter of the tree will determine the number of taps you can use on the tree. According to the Minnesota DNR, here's a general guide:

                                          Diameter of Tree              Number of Taps           
                                           less than 10"                              0
                                           10" to 14"                                   1
                                           15" to 19"                                   2      
                                           20" to 24"                                   3
                                           25" or larger                               4

Now you need to install the taps (or the correct word is "spile").  There are different styles of these, but I saw them at our local hardware store for $2.99 each. 

Drill a hole only the size of the spile (usually 5/16" or 7/16") at a slight angle upward, no more than 2"-3" deep.  Blow the shavings out of the hole, then gently tap the spile with a hammer into the tree, being careful not to split the wood.  Choose a location about 3 feet off the ground, ideally either above a big root or below a big branch, on the south side of the tree where it gets the most sun.

Now all you need to do is hang your bucket!  You should start to see sap running right away if the conditions are right.  It will look like water and has the same consistency.  

You might want to figure out a way to cover the bucket to help keep rain, snow and other debris out (but don't worry if some of that stuff gets's bound to...and you're going to filter it and boil it later anyway).

We got lucky and have one great-grand-daddy of a tree so we installed 3 taps (we didn't have a spile for one so my husband rigged a brass fitting with a refrigerator water tube that drips into the pan on the ground).  Our daughter loves checking the buckets every day!

Now Just Go Do It!
You will be surprised at how quickly your buckets fill.  And when they do, just transfer the sap into a 5 gallon bucket or other container, keeping it in a cool place until you're ready to boil, and keep filling.  Then look for the next post tomorrow or Tuesday to learn how to boil it down and make your syrup!

Now go!  Hurry!  It will be too late when the weather gets warmer, because the sap will stop flowing, we'll have to remove the spiles (then the tree will naturally heal itself), and we'll have to wait until next spring to make syrup again (now go on..go!...You can do it!).

And just like there is no comparison between pure maple syrup and pancake syrup, there is also no comparison between natural skincare products and commercial skincare products. Check out SkinKissed Naturals - healthy, natural skincare products for every skin type at:


  1. You might want to figure out a way to cover the bucket to help keep rain, snow and other debris out (but don't worry if some of that stuff gets Online Nursery

  2. Yes, we soon figured out we needed to cover it, especially from rain, so we put either plastic or tinfoil around and over the tap and bucket to keep debris and rain out. However, even when we did that, we still would manage to get some stuff in there, so we ran the sap through a fine strainer before adding it to our larger sap bucket and before cooking it down.