Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tapping Maple Trees for Sap

We decided to tap a few maple trees this weekend to collect maple sap and boil it down to maple syrup. In Maine we call it maple sugaring-not sure if this is an official term or not! OK, it was really two weekends ago now-it was 'last weekend' when I started this post! My family did this when I was younger and I remember the sticky sweet smell of the sap boiling down in our kitchen. And, of course, the delicious maple syrup that was the end result! Yum!

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has a great file which includes lots of the information about the basics of tapping trees and making maple syrup. Since I wasn't involved in the details of this as a child (except the taste testing, of course!), we have asked my dad lots of questions and done research. The basics are pretty darn easy, but we are just amateurs who don't know the intricacies of the process.

We started with 3 taps (spiles) on Sunday afternoon. This is what we got for sap that afternoon. We were jumping for joy about this, which is pretty funny, when you see what we are getting now. PS-See the jar on the right? The sap is darker-the sap from that tree has been darker than all the other trees for the whole season. I wonder why? Pretty neat, huh?

The next day, this is what we got for sap... Much more than double!

We were having so much fun, we decided to put in three more taps. (Pretty darn easy-more good resources here at Tap My Trees.)

The sap was really flowing now! (This is a tap/spile running into our recycled jug bucket.) In Maine, you can pick up maple sugaring supplies at many hardware stores or farm & feed stores. The spiles are approximately a couple of dollars each. You can use recycled jugs or pails as collection buckets.

There are a few different types of taps, some using a tubing system to lead the sap right into your collection bucket. We did these types of taps as well. I love the nostalgic look of the stainless steel taps, but I think I prefer the ease of the plastic taps and tubing. Here is one of our systems for these. You just run the tubing into your collection container. We used recycled orange juice containers and drilled a hole in the top for the tubing. Easy to uncap and dump. Everything you read about maple sugaring states that the sap & the syrup will very easily take on other flavors, so be careful about washing carefully, cleaning, rinsing, etc. your materials.

PS Best weather for maple sap flowing is freezing at night and above freezing during days (Approx 20 degrees F at night and 40 degrees F during day is great). In Maine, the last couple of weeks of March are generally great maple sugaring days. Once the temps stop freezing at night and consistently stay about 50 during the day, the sap stops flowing. (boo!) But then, it is so nice out and you can move on to more Spring projects!

So, I am realizing that I still need more pictures. I have to show you what we are getting for sap each day now! (OK, OK, It's about one gallon per tap each day!) Yeah!

And, I have to show you what we have for syrup so far.

And, I have to add in a bit about what NOT to do. (We have learned a bit.)

But, those will have to wait for another day...

This is the syrup we processed during our first week of maple sugaring. It doesn't look like much, but keep in mind that it takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup!

When we started this year, we said that we would be happy if we got enough syrup for one pancake dinner. We already made our goal, and now we want to keep going and make more!

More info to come about the boiling down process, if you are interested. Also, if you are in Maine, Maine Maple Sunday is coming up this weekend. It is a great time! Get info about it at Maine Maple Producers here!

PS-Edited Weds am. I originally spelled spile wrong! I was blog browsing, saw Soule Mama's post (on maple sugaring-we both do live in Maine, after all!), and she spelled it spile. So, I looked it up and I was totally wrong. Rest assured, I have corrected it. Now I know spile is not spyle! Tap is way easier anyway!


  1. We just took T's cubscout den to see a local man's maple sugaring "process" and it was so fun! The kids got to tap the trees and sample syrup. I bet you are having a great time! I wish we had maple trees :(

  2. We live in the city. But I remember doing this as a little girl too. Maple syrup is so delicious, one of my favourite condiments in the world. Way to tap those trees and make your own Vanessa. How fun seeing all the aspects of your process!

  3. We're trying this ourselves this year, too! It's such an amazing process. Today is our first day boiling. I'd love to hear about what did (and didn't) work for you. FYI, we picked up most of our supplies from Merrifield Farm in Gorham. It's the same place we usually attend Maple Sugar Sunday. They were very supportive and helpful with preparing us on our first sugaring adventure. One last thing, try sipping a some from a mug before it's completely boiled down, it makes a sweet, yummy tea! ~Laura


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