Collecting Sap at the end of winter months is a great way to welcome spring, and get outdoors as the temperatures start to become more favourable - The days will get longer and the temps will start to rise above freezing during those days. Pure Maple Syrup can be quite expensive, and for good reason - it takes 40 times more sap for each part of finished product. Here are the start up items you need to be on your way for collecting your own organic maple syrup
Last year we tried to identify trees in February - with no leaves on them - it was tough, but we managed to correctly find 7. This past August, we went out and with a tape measure, log book, red yarn, plastic tags, and a marker. We identified all the maples that would be easy to reach in the winter, and measured each one. If the circumference was greater than 36", we tagged it, and recorded it in our log book along with its approximate location. We identified over 30 trees, but come February this year, we ended up only tapping just over 20 trees (some large ones have 2 taps). Each tap should yield a litre of maple syrup over the season. You need approximately 40 L of sap for 1 litre of Maple Syrup, (Our trees average about a 32:1 ratio)
COLLECTING SAP SUPPLIES
We used water jugs ranging in size from 4L-20L to collect our sap. For taps, we ordered a 12 pack from Amazon for less than $25. We like these ones: You can drill a much smaller hole in the tree (3/16“) than with traditional taps.
We like these ones, as you can drill a much smaller hole in the tree (3/16“) than with traditional taps.
1. sterilize your taps, tubing, drill bit, and buckets in a 20:1 ratio of water to household bleach. Rinse everything, and run plenty of hot water through the plastic food grade tubing to thoroughly rinse the bleach, and to also help soften them. This makes it easier for attaching them to the taps once in the cold.
2. Only use a drill bit that is 3/16" - Anything larger will make a hole too large in the tree, and the tap will not fit snuggly. We mark our drills at an inch and a half to make sure we don’t drill too deep or shallow past the bark.
3. Ensure you are “between“ the ridges of bark, or peel back a bit so that you get directly into the tree. The sap actually flows from the ground up, so you want to drill in a just slightly upward angle to assist with gravity to flow out.
4. Secure a large bucket at the end of the line that will hold enough sap in a week, to keep some weight to it, this will minimize flyaway buckets on windy days. We tend to use water jugs or buy food grade buckets.
You will need a few flat pans to evaporate the sap, ideally outdoors. Flatter pans work best because you have a larger surface area to allow for evaporation. If you can find stainless steel pans around the house perfect - just remember they will become charred on the bottom, if using over a wood fire like we do.
If you do have to purchase something new, if may set you back another $20-$40. We used 3 of these pans from Amazon, and then purchased a 50 L boil pot from our local Maple Syrup Supplier. You could always do smaller batches in a large soup pot, as the finish boil stainless steel pots will set you back about $200 - this can wait for another year!
You will need several bottles, I find few 1L, 500mL, 250mL, and 100mL the best to have on hand. You will also need some filters, a glass measuring cup, and some caps. I did not like mason jars - they were my first choice, but the lids kept rusting after boiling.
You can also choose to do up some fun labels for your bottles, we designed some the first year and printed on Staples Avery labels. This year I have beautiful, professionally printed labels from Vistaprint
This covers the main supplies you will need to start collecting, I would say you can get most items for small scale collecting, for under $50, that would include the taps, using water jugs to collect sap. One pan to purchase, and a couple of bottles.
You will find with just a few items, you can start collecting and making maple Syrup from your own backyard. It's a great hobby and pastime, that the whole family will enjoy, and you can always upgrade in later years.
Join me for How to Identify Maple Trees
How to make Maple Syrup
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