How Maple Syrup Is Made

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How to Make Maple Syrup

Ever find yourself sitting there enjoying a stack of pancakes dripping with melted butter and maple syrup (getting hungry aren’t you?) and find yourself wondering, “I wonder how maple syrup is made?” …. Ya me neither. However, on the off chance you’re out of maple syrup and the apocalypse comes tomorrow and you find yourself sitting down to a nice hot plate of delectable pancakes while your better half fends off the zombie’s trying to get at your brains, you might find yourself wanting some maple syrup.  Fear not, after reading this, you’ll not have to go maple syrup-less for the rest of your short life.

What you need :

* Maple Tree
* A bucket or other collector
* Drill and drill bit
* Spout
For boiling sap (preferably outdoors)-
* A syrup or candy thermometer or a
syrup hydrometer (for testing to see
when your syrup is done)
* Wool or Orlon (optional – for filtering)

Step 1 : Find a Maple tree. The best kind of maple trees for making maple syrup are Sugar Maples (If you haven’t already guessed- it has a high sugar content),  Lacking Sugar Maples, some other types that produce tasty sap are Red Maple, Silver Maple, Black Maple (seriously, who named these things: sugar, red, silver, black;  how inventive) and Boxelder (wow talk about your red headed step child).  Sugar Maples are generally preferred due to the extra sweetness of their sticky innards.

Step 2 : Tap that fine piece of wood.  Before tapping make sure the tree is old enough.  It’s just not a good idea to tap an underage piece of wood; that’s true with a variety of things, not just with maple trees.  The tree should be at least 10 inches in diameter and measure at least 4-5 feet tall.  Trees under 20 inches in diameter should only have one tap made per tree.  Trees above 20 inches in diameter can be tapped 2 to 3 times at once.  Any more than that and it’s just not healthy for the tree, again so true for a variety of things.

To tap the tree, drill a hole in the tree with a slight upward angle (so the sap can flow downwards through the hole).  The hole should have a diameter of around 7/16 an inch or around 11 millimeters for you non-Americans out there.  Try not to rough up the wood any when drilling. You want a clean smooth hole so the sap can flow freely.  Scrapes and things along the wood inside the hole can hinder output.  If you are using a sharp bit and have a steady hand, you shouldn’t have a problem. The depth should be around 1 1/2 to 2 inches (you non-americans are just going to have to look that up; I’m done being your non-metric crutch… seriously though, about 3 to 5 cm deep).  Preferably, pick a place on the tree that has healthy looking bark.
Step 3 :  Now hang a bucket or container of some sort to be used to collect the sap.  Make sure to cover the container well so you don’t get any rain / bird poo / squirrel droppings / etc in there (unless you like that sort of thing; whatever lights your wick I guess)
You can reasonably expect to get at least 15 gallons of sap per year per bore hole.  In favorable weather conditions and if you tap that wood real nice and snuggle a little after, it might even produce for you as much as 80 gallons of sap in a year per bore hole.

Don’t leave an accumulated amount of sap in the buckets for any length of time.  Rather, go out and collect your sap regularly and store it in a freezer and boil it as soon as you’ve collected enough to make a useful amount of syrup. Just like milk and red-headed people, sap doesn’t do well if kept out in the sun for too long.

Step 4 : Get together a bunch of giant pots and get ready to do some boiling! If you have an extremely well ventilated kitchen, you can boil the sap in doors. However, this isn’t really advisable as boiling sap produces a surprising amount of steam so doing it outside in nature is probably best (again, that’s true about a lot of things).

Fill the pan up around 2/3 full and start boiling away.  From here you will continually need to add sap as the water evaporates out.

Keep going until your sap reaches approximately 66 percent sugar content at 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the boiling point temperature where you are (the temperature you read when the sap first started boiling).  You can use a hydrometer to measure sugar content.  Anything below 66 percent and your syrup will go bad pretty quickly.  Anything above around 67 percent and you’ll end up getting sugar crystals forming at the bottom of your containers.

Step 5 : Filter that sweet sticky wood goo.  Once you’ve got the syrup at the correct density and temperature, you’ll want to filter it through some wool or Orlon while it is still hot.  Lacking something suitable for filtering, you can always let it cool and let the sediment settle to the bottom and then carefully pour the clean syrup into another container.  In this case, you will then want to heat the clean syrup back up to around boiling temperature before putting it in the final storage container.

Pour the still hot syrup (170-180 degrees F, around 79 degrees C) into your sterilized canning jars until it is pretty much completely full (with as little air as possible) and then seal. Now place the jars on their sides as they cool to insure a great seal. Sealed jars of sryup can be stored at room temperature, but should be refridgerated after being opened for use.

Cleanup of your collecting buckets should never be done with soaps or detergents as this will very likely result in off-tasting maple syrup.  Instead just use hot water and a scrub brush,

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  • This is completely hilarious. Oh my gosh!

  • Wow, this article is a bit too punny for me :v

  • Amusing and accurate. When I first saw the title, I thought, “How can anyone possibly not know?” Why? Because I’m Canadian. And field trips to a maple syrup farm are practically a mandatory curriculum component. Seriously. I think I’ve been at least 5 times. =D

  • Wow, you even took down my comment. You STOLE my illustrations to make your graphic! WTF? Cease using my art in your poorly made rip-off of my work. Seriously.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Shawn Braley: I took down your comment because it had every sign of being from a comment troll. We literally get millions of spam comments and thousands of comment troll comments per year doing very similar to what you said in your first post. People who’re really serious tend to just contact us directly, rather than leave a comment in an old post that is unlikely to be reviewed. Yours was particularly suspect as you said that we stole this infographic from you, when in fact, me being the author of the text itself, I knew that to be false. I also still have the original PSD. Further, the company I hired to make the infographic even went so far as to make their own font for the Maple Syrup text in this particular graphic and is in the business of making graphics (legally) and has paid for rights to use literally hundreds of thousands of small graphics in their work they do. Now that you’ve clarified seeming to imply that it’s not the whole infographic, but some small graphic within it, I’m inclined to perhaps believe you are not one of the comment trolls.

      Please send me proof that you own the copyright to said graphic within the infographic and your info via the contact link at the top of this page. I’ll then double check with the original maker of the infographic to make sure they hadn’t already paid for the rights to use that graphic. I’ve never had them slip up before on that (up to around 80 infographics now). When they do use images they haven’t paid for, they make sure they’re copyright free or otherwise we list link credit, if that’s what’s required by the original maker. They wouldn’t stay in business long without doing that, you see. If there was a mixup, it’s probable it was because your graphic is currently listed on some copyright-free clipart package or another for some reason that the people I hire for my infographics used. I assure you, they nor I ever steal anyone’s work intentionally. It’s just not a good way to stay in business long term.

      But if there was a mixup, I’ll be happy to work out a deal with you or otherwise remove whatever image from the infographic. In future, best to use the contact form for such correspondence though. You’d be amazed at how many comments like yours come in that are from people just trolling. For instance, I once had someone copy TodayIFoundOut in its entirety, including domain, but using a different country’s domain extension. They then left comments on numerous posts claiming I’d stole their articles and even reported me to my host and registrar to try to get my site taken down. Of course, the fact that my site and posts had been around couple years with thousands of linkbacks in that span at that point and they’d just put their site up with narry a linkback from any site made it easy for everyone involved to see they were the ones stealing the content. In the end, they ended up not only banning me from their site which had nothing but my posts on it, but anyone from the U.S. trying to access it. 🙂 You’d really be surprised how often things like that happen on a popular website, though most aren’t so hardcore, usually just people simply for whatever reason taking pleasure in harassing people.

      • @Daven Hiskey, I replied to you via email this morning with the proof that you requested. Looking forward to hearing back.


  • I am Canadian & I have never seen a maple tree. Maple trees are actually indiginous to a very small portion of Canada, most of Canada hasn’t got ’em.