From the first week that I moved in to my new home, I’ve been eyeing the huge maple trees in the backyard, wondering if it was possible to tap them and try making maple syrup in the city.
This is the first year that we actually attempted to do it, and boy was it an adventure!
We followed simple instructions from our homesteading books and drilled holes into the tree then tapped our spiles into the hole with a hammer.
Sap started flowing out of the spile immediately. We hung simple plastic buckets from the spile and waited. I had no idea how much sap we’d get out of them, but I figured, even if I get enough syrup to have one breakfast, it will be worth it. From what I can tell, we’ll be getting enough syrup for two years worth of breakfasts.
On the first day of tapping, we got about two gallons of sap. It was way more than I expected to get. I filled up our salsa pot half way that night. The next afternoon, there was enough to fill the pot the rest of the way, and it was still flowing. I grabbed a new pot from the cupboard and filled that with sap from one tree. It was clear that I would need to use all of our pots. So I did. Then I went on to bowls. Just a few days into tapping and our back porch looked like this:
We, along with our dog Nico, had to step over this mess in order to get outside for a whole day until I found a giant tub to hold all the sap until we could boil it down. When that giant tub filled up to the brim with sap from just a few days, it was onto the next step!
In order to turn sap into syrup, you have to boil it down for a loooong time. I figured we’d get a few gallons of sap and it would take a few hours to boil it down on the stove. Hah! Nope. I mentioned to a fellow teacher at school that we were tapping our trees and this is how that conversation went:
“What are you going to use to boil it?”
I said, “A stove.”
He just looked at me, and then said, “No, you can’t do that. The steam will ruin your home, you’ll have to do it outside. What are you using to filter it?”
“Ummm, I have to filter it?”
“Oh boy. Do you have a Hydrometer?”
“What’s a hydrometer?”
It was clear after this one-minute conversation that we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. Google came to the rescue and answered all of my sap boiling questions. I read horror stories about people attempting to boil sap in their house and the steam caused their wallpaper to peel off the walls and fall to the floor. Since we don’t have a hood on our stove we had to find another option.
We decided to use a propane turkey fryer in the backyard. My Dad came over and helped me set everything up, as he had just done the same a few days earlier with his sap. Our neighbors must think we’re insane, or maybe they think we’re witches. I don’t know what other sorts of people would have giant steaming cauldron of mysterious liquid in their backyard for two days.
I spent a lot of the day outside, in the 35-degree weather, checking the sap and watching the chickens roam the yard. I had to drink rum in order to warm my bones. What a rough life, eh? I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date on our experiment as things progress!
Are any of you tapping trees this year? I would love to hear about your maple syrup experiments!