Ever thought about trying to make your own maple syrup? This is the first in a multi-part series documenting my family’s failures (lots) and successes (a few) at our first attempt to do so. And I’ll fill you in on our results this year as well… it should be a SWEET series.
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Last winter, we longed to make our own maple syrup. So we gave it a try. And we pretty much failed. But boy did we learn a lot. And this year we’re gonna give it another try. Plus, no one ever said it was easy to make your own maple syrup. So I thought I’d share details with you, here on SoulyRested, as I learn more. And just imagine, if I succeed, I’ll have both Wild Blueberry Jam and Maple Syrup gracing my breakfast table this winter.
When fall settled in with full force last October, her cold winds relentlessly put an end to the beautiful color we were surrounded by for many glorious weeks. Nothing makes my heart sing with thankfulness to a masterful, artful creator more than a New England town cloaked in Autumn.
Before the leaves gave up their tenacious, colorful grip, we turned our focus toward thoughts of sugary, maple delicacies. We traversed our woods: my high school sweetheart with a can of fluorescent spray paint, I with my camera, and Bixby with unbridled excitement (always). The orange “x”s are beautiful marks of potential sweet syrup we hope to enjoy this winter.
We made many mistakes last winter in our first attempt to harvest maple syrup, but even in our mistakes, we wound up with some sweet results. In fact, if you make your own maple syrup, you too may find, as we did, that you enjoy the yummy product of your mistakes. Maple sugar turned out to be my favorite “failure” of all.
Although we happened upon maple sugar accidentally, I’ll share how we made it in a future post. But if you’d like full directions for making your own homemade electrolyte-filled maple drink right now, just sign up above for my weekly newsletter. I will immediately send you access to my full resource library, including an amazing nutrient-rich drink that tastes amazing made with fresh maple sap but can also be made with water.
Here’s a little glimpse into some of the maple products we make here on our New England farm. You may be surprised by what my favorite product is!–>
So we’re ready to eagerly try again this winter. Heck, if we mess up again so deliciously, what do we have to loose? We had trouble finding good resources for our efforts last year, so I plan on documenting the process here, on SoulyRested, as we go along this winter. I figure maybe someone would like to learn from our failures. (So stay tuned, if you dare… you very well may wind up with some maple sugar cravings in the process of learning to make your own maple syrup. If you’re up to the temptation, follow along.)
We have other delicious thoughts on our homestead in the fall as well.
While the harvest was tiny this year, the apples have all been picked, and yummy apple cider is in the works. I’ll be sharing a recipe for that in a future post as well.
Then there’s our weekly hearth-baked night, which may be the best part of winter on our homestead.
But it turns out I’ve discovered amazing recipes for pizza and bread on an oven stone that are so yummy we can’t tell the difference between them and our ones we bake in our brick oven. So I’ll be sharing those in future posts too.
So, as winter settles in, the firewood is stacked high. And soon enough we’ll be enveloped in the serenity of winter. But for today, we’ll just enjoy the sight of our orange “x”s and thoughts of sugary sweetness to come.
I’d love to share with you my recipe for a homemade electrolyte-filled drink made with maple sap (or plain water)! It’s just one of many awesome resources in my subscriber library. Share your email with me in the box below, or at the end of this post, and I’ll send you the link and your password immediately!
If you live in an area where late winter temperatures stay below freezing all night, every night, and then rise to the 40s during the day, you’re in prime maple syrup country.
If you think you might like to try your hand at the whole sweet process and make your own maple syrup, you need to start by identifying and marking your maple trees. Then you’ll want to make sure you have all the supplies on hand that you’ll need when the sap starts to flow. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be slathering your pancakes and maybe even making something deliciously fancy (like this amazing Homemade Maple BBQ Sauce that Jill shared on The Prairie Homestead) with the sweet results of your labor.
Take a Second to Save These Posts for Later
I know I come across helpful pointers online all the time that I plan on coming back to, only to realize later that I didn’t save the information, or I saved it but don’t remember where I saved it. So I wanted to save you the 20-minute heartache of floundering around for this muli-part DIY syrup series when you need it. You can PIN each post right here, then keep reading…
PIN Part 1, about identifying and marking your trees in the fall and gathering some of your preliminary supplies
PIN Part 2, about when, where, and how to drill your taps. This post also covers how to know if you live where you can tap successfully and 7 questions you need to know the answers to before you tap your trees.
PIN Part 3, about a reverse osmosis filter–what it is, how to build one yourself, and how it can save you hundreds a year in your backyard syrup making process.
PIN Part 4, the step-by-step guide to boiling your sap. This posts walks you through every important detail you need to know when processing your syrup, from tree to pancake.
PIN Part 5, a guide to knowing the perfect time to stop tapping your maple trees. (Don’t make the mistake that I did and assume you should keep on tapping until the sap stops flowing.)
Identifying your maple trees
The best ones for making syrup are the Sugar, Black, Red, and Silver maples. Once you’ve studied the bark patterns of those four types of maples, as well as their leaf shape and type of samaras (the winged seeds, or whirly-bird seeds, as my girls called them when they were my little girls), you’re ready to walk your property and find your maple trees. Take along a copy of my favorite tree ID book to help you.
Marking your maple trees
You want the tree to be approximately 12″ or larger in diameter. When you’ve found the perfect trees, you can either make a map of the trees’ locations or mark the trees in some way. While we chose to paint an “x” on ours, you could tie plastic, fabric, or string ties around the trucks or large, low branches.
Of course you only need one such tree to try your hand at making syrup.
Gathering your maple syrup supplies
Once you’ve identified and marked your trees, you’ll want to start gathering your supplies, so you’re ready to tap the trees when the time is right. (For us, in New England last year, that was the end of February.)
These are the supplies you’ll need when the sap starts flowing:
- Cordless drill.
- Drill bits. Depending upon the type of spile used, either a 5/16 or 7/16 drill bit is used to drill the tap hole into your maple tree.
- Spiles (or taps). These are inserted into the drilled holes, to transfer sap into your storage containers.
- Hooks OR plastic tubing. Hooks are attached to the spiles and used to hang the bucket. We choose to sit our buckets on the ground and feed the tubing right to the buckets.
- Storage containers to hold your sap–we like using food-grade 5-gallon buckets with lids. We found these, very reasonably priced (with predrilled holes in the lids for the tubing), at our local Tractor Supply. I’ve read that deli or donut shops may be willing to give you food-grade buckets, for free, if they often have their ingredients delivered in them. It’s worth asking at least. I had originally thought we could save money on this piece of equipment and collect sap in modified milk jugs. But I can honestly say my husband was so right about the craziness of my idea. On ideal days, on our most productive trees, we gathered overflowing buckets full, in only half a day’s time. A milk jug would have never been big enough, and all that sap would have been wasted, spilling onto the ground every day.
If you want to do more than just collect maple sap, you’ll also need sap processing equipment. More about that in a future post.
But don’t feel intimidated to jump in full-force your first winter. You can choose to simply tap a few trees and collect the sap for drinking. You can use maple sap to make coffee and tea, even brew beer I’m told. In fact, you can use maple sap water in just about any recipe that calls for water. It adds a very subtly sweet maple flavor. And you can chill it and drink it in place of water. In fact, in our area, companies do just that, selling chilled, bottled, maple-flavored water.
So this year if you wanna tap one maple tree, or try your hand at a forest full, I’m betting you’ll enjoy sweet rewards. Follow along here on SoulyRested for more details about when and how to tap your trees, collect your sap, and process your syrup and sugar. And be sure to read Part Two in my Make Your Own Maple Syrup Series.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights. Psalm 36: 7-8
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my new book that’s currently in production: Beautiful Sugar, how to make maple products and bake with them beautifully. Not only will it be the perfect guide for anyone who wants to try making backyard syrup, but no maple tree taping is required in order to fall in love with this book. It will include fascinating historical facts about maple syrup production, as well as details on how anyone can make maple sugar and maple cream (YUM!) right in their own kitchen, using real maple syrup that they can purchase in any store. Be sure to follow along here (by typing your email into the box at the end of this post). Then you’ll be one of the first to know when my new book hits the presses!
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Please take a second to follow along here on SoulyRested to catch up on a few of my memorable mishaps, enjoy musings about my centuries-old farmhouse, or glean a little parenting/homeschooling insight from this momma who’s been failing at the effort for almost 2 decades. I hope my focus always help you Keep it Simple while being Souly Rested on Christ.
Remember, if you’d like full directions for making your own homemade electrolyte-filled maple drink right now, just sign up below for my weekly newsletter. I will immediately send you access to my full resource library, including a recipe for this amazing nutrient-rich maple drink.