Maple Syrup Day with Luella


We went out to the Nature Center that isn't far from our house for their annual Maple Syrup Making Day. Luella had so much fun being in the forest and did not want to leave. She picked out our dresses and said over and over how happy she was to be on our way spending time together. I've been trying to keep up on small dates with Lue since Minoux has been born and I always can't believe how wonderful it feels to just be with just Lue again. Minoux and Max cozied at home while we adventured out. There are a lot of great tutorials on how to tap a Maple Tree for syrup, but this was one of the simplest that I found, here: You will not believe the taste between conventional maple syrup (which by the way, generally doesn't even have any real maple or sap process in it and is mostly corn syrup. What a rip off!) versus the real deal. It's insanely good. They were in process tapping while we visited but got to sample some of a past batch and it was sticky fingers, running down Luella's unicorn- good. It makes for an excellent maple syrup frosting to top cupcakes with. The amount of sap it takes to make maple syrup is insane and genuinely provokes such a gratitude for where good food comes from. 

Pure maple syrup is not only high in antioxidants, but every spoonful offers nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium,calcium and potassium. According to Helen Thomas of the New York State Maple Association, maple syrup has a higher concentration of minerals and antioxidants, yet fewer calories than honey. (source: here

Find a maple tree. The most important step in the process of tapping a tree for maple is finding just the right tree. Look for a maple tree that is at least 12 inches in diameter and has a lot of direct sunlight. Maple trees that give the most sap are of the sugar or black variety. Red and silver maple trees will also provide sap, but not as much as the other two species. One overlooked tree for sugary sap is the Black Walnut. Avoid unhealthy trees that have been damaged in the past. They will not provide as much sap as a big, strong, healthy tree. You can tap a single tree multiple times if it is large and healthy enough. For a tree 12-20 inches in diameter, a single tap is all that can be used. For a tree 21-27 inches wide, you can use up to two taps. A tree can have three taps if it is wider than 28 inches across. Trees with a larger crown - all the branches and leaves - typically give more sap than trees with a smaller crown.

Know when to tap. The best time to tap your tree depends on your location, but it generally ranges from mid-February to mid-March. It should be above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day, and drop below freezing at night. The fluctuating temperatures cause the sap to flow, moving it from the tree trunk and branches to the roots below the ground. Sap flows for around 4-6 weeks, but this depends on the health of the tree and the environment. Generally, the best sap is gathered at the beginning of the flow.

Gather your supplies. To tap a maple tree, you will need a bucket with a cover (to keep things from falling in), a spile, and a drill. It may also be helpful to have a large clean trash can or similar vat to use as storage for all the sap you will tap. Thoroughly clean the spile, bucket, and cover with bleach and water. Make sure that they are completely dry before use. For your drill, you will need either a 7/16 or 5/16 drill bit.

Decide where to tap. Find the ideal place on the tree to tap. You want it to be convenient to reach in healthy wood. Tap the side of the tree that gets the most sun throughout the day, ideally the south side. If you can, it is best to tap above a large root or below a large branch. If the tree you are tapping has been tapped in the past, make sure that your new spile is inserted at least 6 inches away from the old hole. Place the tap in a healthy section of wood. If you drill and the shavings are light brown or tan, the wood is healthy. If you drill and the shavings are dark brown or chocolate-y colored, find a new place to tap. Drill on a sunny day when it is a bit warmer out to minimize the chance of splitting the wood.

Drill your hole. Hold the drill as an angle going slightly upwards to make sap flow easier. Drill in about 2.5 inches. To know how far to drill, you can tape around your drill bit 2.5 inches from the end prior to drilling. Use a sharp drill bit to avoid creating a rough hole, which can decrease the amount of sap that is released. Remove all wood shavings from the hole once you’ve finished drilling.
Put the spile in the tree. Tap it in using a rubber mallet or hammer to ensure it is sturdy enough that it cannot be pulled out easily by hand. Don’t hit the spile into the tree too hard, or else you run the risk of splitting the wood. If you do not want to buy a spile, you can make your own using ⅜” aluminum piping. Avoid using copper, as it is toxic to the tree. Widen one end so that it can be used as a spout to pour the sap into your bucket.

Hang your bucket. Attach it to the end of the spile, or if you made your own use a bit of wire to hook it to your spout. Make sure that the bucket is secure, so that it cannot accidentally be knocked off or blown off by the wind. Put the cover over the top of the bucket to prevent debris from entering your sap store.

Wait for your sap. Collect it daily in the afternoons when it is the warmest outside. If the weather is good, you will be able to collect sap for just over one month. A healthy tree can provide between 10–80 gallons (37.9–302.8 L) of sap, depending on environmental conditions. Sap will stop flowing if the daytime temperature does not rise above freezing, or if the nighttime temperature stays above freezing and becomes too warm. Collect all your sap into a large container, such as an empty (clean) trash can. Otherwise, you will have many full buckets taking up space. If the temperature rises above 45 °F (7 °C), the sap must be refrigerated. Otherwise, it will spoil and begin to grow bacteria.

Happy Maple Syrupping!

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