On Tap: Maple Syrup

17 Mar

By Beth Bauer
ZENTX Media Group

Imagine the perfect stack of pancakes with a sweet, velvety maple syrup slowly making its journey across every bite.  These heavenly bites can’t be recreated by some “maple flavored syrup” created in a lab or test kitchen, it only can come from nature, and most likely a tree you have in your very own yard.  The art of making maple syrup has been around for thousands of years and it’s a fun, hands-on activity that you should try at least once in your lifetime.

Maple syrup making has become an annual tradition every February through April for my husband and I since we bought our house in Midland five years ago.  Although, I am by no means an expert (and with full disclosure I rely on my husband to do the brunt of the work, but someone has to taste test, right?), there are eight main steps you need to know in order for you to make your very own maple syrup too.

maplesyrup

Step 1: Select Trees & Buy Equipment
Identify and mark your maple trees while the leaves are still in tact before winter begins so that they will be easy to spot in the midst of winter.  Also, obtain the equipment you will need for making maple syrup, which includes: taps (also called spiles), buckets, storage bins, filters, and bottles.

Step 2: Make Sure Timing is Right
February through April are the main months for collecting sap, ideal timing is when temperatures are warm and above freezing during the day and below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) during the night.

Step 3: Tap Trees & Attach Buckets
Tap your maple trees by drilling a hole on the side of the tree that receives the most sunlight.  An electrical hand drill works the best.  The hole should be the diameter of your tap and should be at a slight downward angle.  Once the tap is in place, also attach your bucket or collection container.

Step 4: Collect Sap
Make sure to check your buckets every few days and transfer whatever sap has collected to your storage container.  Keep collecting sap until the season has ended or you have gathered enough sap.

Step 5: Filter & Boil Sap
Syrup is made by removing the water from the sap, so only the sugar remains.  Sap contains only 2% sugar, so it’s important to boil out all of the water.  But before you begin evaporating the water, you should first filter the sap to ensure any unwanted items like bugs or twigs are removed and discarded.

Step 6: Filter Again & Bottle
Filter the syrup again to ensure you haven’t missed any unwanted items and then poor into your sanitized bottles.

 Step 7: Remove Taps
It’s important to remove the taps from the trees.  There is no need to plug the holes, they will close by themselves.

Step 8: Enjoy!

Making maple syrup is an activity you should definitely add to your bucket list.  But if you want to celebrate the season without all of the work, I recommend checking out The Chippewa Nature Center.  They have numerous fun activities based around making and eating maple syrup made on their premise.  What’s your favorite thing about maple syrup?

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