Maple Syrup Tree Tapping
Today, we are maple syrup tree tapping. I thought spring was supposed to be here already in the Midwest, at least the calendar states it is. I like to see the snow come; but also quickly go.
This year it is hanging around longer than I care to see. We have to keep ourselves busy while we are waiting!
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Back in 2013, our daughter wanted to go and try her hand at maple syrup tree tapping. I did a search and couldn’t find many places that we could witness, or even participate in the process
Found Somewhere To Go
We did find one place. Brillion Nature Center in Brillion, WI.
By chance, I stumbled on an events page they had posted online.
This would allow her to try her hand at tapping trees and also give us a behind-the-scenes look at processing maple syrup.
We Learned Plenty
Interesting fact that sugar maple tree tapping only occurs in the northeastern United States and in Eastern Canada
What Trees To Tap
Any variety of maple trees: red maples, sugar, silver, and even boxelder.
They did say some people tap sweet birch, walnut, hickory, and sycamore, which I had never heard of.
Tapping The Trees
In Wisconsin, we don’t start tapping until March. The flow of sap is highly dependent upon weather conditions. The flow usually lasts roughly three weeks.
Step 1 – Drill Hole
My daughter learned how to drill into a tree by inserting the maple syrup taps into the tree.
As a general rule of thumb, maple syrup tapping starts around March 1st in Wisconsin.
Locate your maple tree. About 3 feet up from the ground drill a 1-1/2″ hole using a 3/8″ drill bit into the tree at an upwards angle.
When you pull your drill out your will notice some moisture. That is a good sign.
Step 2 – Install Tap
Installing the tap. You hit the tap one time – rather hard to insert it into your drilled hole.
Hammer a spile with an eye hook attached to the freshly drilled hole. Hammer flush with the lip of the spile facing down.
What Tapping Does To Tree
This is a tree that fell down last spring. The rectangle outlines in the flesh are previous tapping years.
You want to be sure to space your taps out to keep your tree healthy.
Step 3 – Hang Container
Hang the collection bucket or bag on the spile. Anything clean that will hold the running sap will work as a collection container.
Step 4 – Collection Time Depends
Check your buckets throughout the day. The time it takes to collect depends on the temperature outside and how fast the tree runs.
The sap is a clear liquid and will not become brown in color until heated.
This is what the sap looks like when collected. Notice it is a clear liquid. When you taste the liquid it is only mildly sweet.
The clear tree sap is a mixture of water, sugar, salt, and minerals. It is evaporated to make a concentrated liquid, known as maple syrup.
Boiled Sap To Rock Candy
With the liquid, you can boil the syrup down to hard rock candy.
Storing The Sap Until Processing
Once you have a fair amount it is off to turn it into maple syrup. You can store the sap at 40-45 degrees until you are ready
Cooking The Syrup
Now, I can’t be much help to those of you wishing to make your own at home from this point forward because we used a commercial fire evaporator.
I can tell you that you need to start off slow as not to burn the sappy water and you need to boil it hot for the moisture to evaporate. The syrup will look oily when it is ready and be between 104 C – 106 C.
You let it cool and then you are set. If you want, you could make a form of crystallized maple. By cooling it down extremely quickly, like the Native Americans had done to transport it easily.
There is something to be said about fresh, warm maple syrup.
I enjoyed mine in liquid form over ice cream. YUM!