There is nothing like pure maple syrup you’ve processed yourself. OH MY! It’s utterly delicious.
Maple Syrup starts flowing in my neck of the woods around February and lasts 6-8 weeks. (Zone 5 in the U.S.) It’s not hard to tap a tree, however, my maple trees are in a steep valley so we take quit a hike to tap a tree. Once they are tapped, sap will start to flow immediately if you are tapping in the correct season. Maple sap is a clear liquid like water.
You’ll want to use only food grade containers to collect the sap. Clean plastic milk jugs or juice containers can be used. We were able to get food grade containers from our local deli for free. When the sap is flowing, it will need to be collected daily. Pour the sap from the bucket into a large storage container using a cheesecloth to filter out any foreign material. We used a 50 gal food grade barrel to store the collected sap.
The sap should be stored at 38 degrees or colder and used within 7 days of collection. Sap is like milk, it will spoil quickly if not kept cold.
Process sap into maple syrup
To kill any bacteria, sap needs to be boiled before consuming. If you want to drink sap water, bring the sap to a rolling boil and boil one minute. Many believe sap water has a wide range of health benefits. Maple sap water can be used in tea, coffee or any recipe calling for water.
The most common way to process sap is into syrup. To make maple syrup, the excess water is boiled off. It takes about 40 parts maple sap to make 1 part maple syrup (10 gallons to 1 quart). It is not recommended to boil indoors because of the large amount of steam. And this steam is sticky so you don’t want that all over your kitchen. YIKES!
We used a turkey fryer outdoors to boil the sap although this did take a long time. A large outdoor fire pit is ideal although you can use a gas grill for smaller batches.
Fill the pot 3/4 full of sap. Once the sap starts to boil down to 1/2 the depth of the pot, add more sap but try to maintain the boil. If the sap is boiling over the edges, wipe butter on the edge of the pot to reduce this.
The boiling sap will take on a golden color. Once the sap has “mostly” boiled down, but still has a very fluid texture, it is time to transfer the sap into a smaller pot.
Once transferred to the smaller pot, the final boiling can be completed indoors. Continue to boil the sap until it takes on a consistency of syrup. One way to check for this is to dip a spoon into the sap / syrup – syrup will “stick” to the spoon as it runs off. If you have a candy thermometer, finish the boil when the temperature is 7 degrees F above the boiling point of water. The boiling point of water differs based on your elevation.
Filtering and bottling
A small amount of sediment will need filtered with a food grade filter. We use a coffee filter once the sap has cooled. Sterilize a bottle (mason jar) and the cap. Pour in the syrup and refrigerate. Syrup should be used within 2 months. Syrup can also be frozen to extend the shelf life.
When buds start forming on trees in your area, it’s time to stop collecting sap.
And that’s all folks! It’s not hard to make maple syrup and the it’s basically cheap. If you have the trees already on your property, why not make good use of them but it does cost time. It takes hours to boil the sap and some time to collect but the reward is DELICIOUS! Happy Homesteading!
P.S. Here is a quick video on how to make maple syrup……