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If you have maple trees in your yard you can make maple syrup. In this post, we'll show you how to tap the trees and collect the sap. You'll need about 11 gallons of sap to make one quart of maple syrup. The amount of sap your tree will produce will depend on many factors, including the size, species, and health of the tree. And, of course, the weather!
Sap runs when cold nights (below freezing) are followed by rapid warming and daytime temperatures from the high-30s to mid-40s. According to the Minnesota DNR, sap typically runs from March 15 to April 20. But it all depends on the weather. If conditions are right, sap will run in January or February.
You can tap silver maples, sugar maples, red maples, or box elder to make syrup. Trees should be at least 10 inches in diameter, four feet from the ground. Very large healthy trees can support a maximum of two taps.
You can find everything you need at your local home improvement store.
You will need one bucket for each tap. Use 5-gallon food-safe buckets with lids (to keep rain, debris, and squirrels out). Do not use smelly pickle buckets. Buckets should be clean, but don’t have to be sterile. Prepare the lids by drilling a hole large enough for your 5/8” ID (inside dimension) tubing.
You can buy food-safe buckets for about $10 each from Home Depot, online, or from home brewing supply stores. Or you can call around to bakeries, restaurants, co-ops, etc., and usually find free ones.
Drill the hole at an angle, about 2 inches deep
Drill the hole at an angle, about 2 inches deep. The south side is best, above a root if you can locate one.
The hole will take a couple of years to heal completely. And you will not want to tap the tree in the same place next year. Next year, drill to the right or left, and above or below the spot you drilled this season.
Splash hot water into the hole to clean out the shavings (so they don’t get in the sap.)
5/8” copper plumbing pipe works well, about 7 inches long. It helps to wrap the pipe with a little tape, so it fits snugly. Use a mallet or hammer to set the pipe securely in the hole.
Attach one end of the tubing to the spile, and shove the other end into the bucket. Secure the bucket so the wind doesn’t blow it over. You may need to seal around the hole and tubing with a little tape to keep the rain out (yuck).
Sap spoils easily so make sure you have a plan for keeping it cold until you are ready to boil. Packing it in snow works well, but don’t bury it completely, because the snow can also act as insulation, keeping the sap warm. In our next post, we'll show you how to process the sap and turn it into maple syrup.
Check out these helpful resources to learn more about how to make maple syrup in your backyard.
Maple Syruping in Minnesota
Homemade Maple Syrup
Eager for Spring? Making maple syrup in your backyard is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while you're waiting for the snow and ice to melt. Step one: collect the sap.
To turn sap into syrup you'll need space to store lots of sap, a propane stove, time, and some basic equipment.
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