Maple syrup production for the home hobbyist

Ruth Paschke
Isanti County Master Gardener
If you have ever wanted to try making your own maple syrup, now is the time to get ready.
Isanti County and the surrounding area are well populated with Maple Trees-both Sugar (hard) and Red are native to the area. Sap can also be collected from Silver Maple and Boxelder, which many homeowners have right in their yards. The Sugar Maple (Acre saccharum) contains the highest sugar content, at about 2 percent.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Silver Maple (Acer saccharunium) and Boxelder (Acer negundo) have less sugar content, requiring the collection of more sap. The home hobbyist can easily make syrup for his own use from just a couple of trees in his yard. Most of what you need is readily available in your home.
You will need a 5/16” – 7/16” wood drill, taps (which are inexpensive and can be purchased at most hardware stores), clean 1 gallon jugs, 5 gallon ‘food safe’ buckets with lids, paper or wool filtering material, stainless steel pot or pans and Mason jars with lid and rings for storage. Choose a healthy tree with a large crown and a diameter of at least 10” for 1 tap. Two taps may be put in a tree up to 20” diameter. Drill about 4’ off the ground in a slightly upward direction to facilitate the sap in a downward flow. Placing your taps on the south side of the tree will increase flow as the sun warms the bark more quickly. Tap the tap in lightly, but snuggly. Attach container and secure it to the tap, covering the opening to prevent rain, debris or bugs from getting into the sap.
It takes about 40 gallons of raw sap to make 1 gallon of finished syrup – one tap will produce an average of 1 gallon per day in good conditions. Best conditions for a good run are consecutive days with temperatures below freezing at night, warming quickly the next day to 40 degrees or higher. Sunny days with calm winds are the best.
Poor conditions will slow the flow or stop it altogether until conditions improve. Sap should be boiled as soon as possible for best quality syrup, but can be left in the container on the tree or collected and stored in a dark cool place for a day or two in ‘food safe’ 5 gallon plastic buckets with lids. It is recommended that the initial cooking be done outside because of the amount of vapor boiled off. This should be done using stainless steel pots with an outdoor stove. Continue boiling and adding sap as it cooks down until it boils at about 214 degrees. Line a sieve with a wool or paper (coffee), filtering the syrup into a stainless steel pan for finishing. This final part needs constant attention and can be done indoors using a candy thermometer. Syrup is finished when the boiling point is 7 degrees over the boiling point of water. Pour hot (180 degree) syrup into mason jars, seal and turn on top to sterilize. After cooling, store and enjoy.
For more information about Making Maple Syrup, visit www.extension.umn.edu/environment/trees-woodlands/homemade-maple-syrup.