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!
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.
I Found Somewhere to Go
I 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.
I have to say the people who run this wildlife place are some of the kindest people I have met.
Google Map Location
I suggest calling to check if they will continue this activity additional years.
We Learned a Lot
I found out that maple syrup is produced only where the sugar maple is found which is in the northeastern United States and in Eastern Canada.
What Kind of Maples 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 dependant upon weather conditions. The flow usually lasts roughly three weeks.
Come Along With Us On a Tour
As a general rule of thumb maple syrup tapping starts around March 1st.
My daughter learning how to drill into tree for inserting the maple syrup taps into the tree.
Step 1 – 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.
Installing the tap. You hit the tap one time – rather hard to insert it into your drill hole.
Step 2 – Hammer a spile with an eye hook attached into the freshly drilled hole. Hammer flush with the lip of the spile facing down.
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.
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After stalling the tree taps, you can place a bag on the tap.
Step 3 – Hang the collection bucket or bag on the spile.
Or a bucket. Heck, anything clean that will hold the running sap will work.
Check your buckets throughout the day. The time it takes to collect depends on the temperature outside and how fast the tree runs.
Step 4 – Collect the sap, checking your collection bin often. 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.
With the liquid you can boil the syrup down to a hard rock candy.
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.
Storing Syrup Until You Have Time To Process
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.
Making 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 quick, like the Native Americans had done to transport it easily.
I enjoyed mine in liquid form over ice cream. YUM!