When you speak to professional “sugarers” they’ll usually tell you horror stories about making your own sap at home, how your walls will get sticky and wet, and how it’s just not economical. Well, they aren’t completely wrong, but it’s pretty easy to do it so that you don’t have any of these problems.
First off, if you heat your house with wood, use the heat from your stove or fireplace to boil your sap, and kill two birds with one stone.
Second, especially if you are making syrup on your regular stove, turn on all the fans you have, and open a window or two. Your walls don’t need to get wet, or sticky, or anything of the sort. The fact is that the sugar is NOT boiling off, only the water, so there is no reason why your walls would drip with syrup no matter what. I can make 4 ounces of syrup on the stove from 2-3 gallons of sap in about 3 hours. Considering the fact that same home-made local syrup would cost me $12-15, I find that quite economical. It generates the same amount of steam (or less!) as making my own tomato sauce.
And for a little extra frugality, do what the native americans did — collect the sap at night and let it sit outside overnight. Most likely, in the morning the sap will have some ice on the top, and that ice has none of the sugars in it. Discard the ice, and you have less sap to boil! The Indians would do this over and over again, until all that was left was syrup.
We’ve had a few warm days here and the maple sap is really running. I collected over 5 gallons, and today I anticipate just as much. I tapped fewer trees this year, just 5, but it looks like we are getting just as much sap. I boiled down half the haul in three hours yesterday and made a pint of perfect syrup. This morning I am rendering the rest down. Of course, it’s still really cold out, so I can’t have too many open windows to let out the steam — I have the front door cracked open and my window box, too, in the kitchen. And of course I am running the wood stove as usual, making it super warm and toasty in the house.
Last year I used all gallon jugs to collect the sap from the trees, which works great when the sap is slower, but not so much when you’re getting over a gallon a day. So this year I am using buckets on the biggest producing trees — three of the trees are right on a small stream’s banks, and they run like crazy.
For more info about Maple tapping, check out my previous blogpost: http://healinggreen.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-do-you-juice-tree.html
In the year since my last maple post, it’s also come out in scientific journals that Maple Syrup fights bacterial infections, inhibits cancer growth and contains natural acids that benefit diabetes and other metabolic disorders. So eat up, and as always, ENJOY <3
This year I have just a few things planned for the garden. To eat, I am planting tomatoes on the trellis next to the clematis, among a bed of basil and tomatillos. I am planting early, indeterminite (tall growing) vines. San Marzano paste tomatoes for canning and drying, and black cherry tomatoes for the kids to pick and eat. Tomatillos are for making verde sauce for my son, and my husband gets some early hot peppers, perfect for our cooler climate (Padron Peppers). I bought all my veggie seeds at anniesheirloomseeds.com which has a wonderful open-pollinated selection and doesn’t charge too much for shipping.
Yesterday my family and I picked out flowers to surround the chicken run: morning glories, moon flowers and and fragrant sweet pea. We also bought cilantro to grow right away in a container. Kmart was having a wonderful “buy one get one free” sale on their seeds which is worth checking out.
I can’t wait to get planting! Today is a dreary rainy day, but the maple sap is boiling away on the stove and I have a pile of peat pots waiting on the counter. Of course, it’s still a bit to early here to start anything but cold weather crops — but I am going to start a tray of cilantro today in an old salad container. Honestly — I love my supermarket, but rather despise the fact that package all the salad inside these huge containers. Plastic bags would work fine, too! But I have found a great use for these containers — seed starting. I use them every year before recycling them.
With gallons of maple sap dripping into our buckets every day, there is a lot to do! Maple Syrup is easy — just boil, boil, add more sap, boil, add more, boil, add more, boil, and pour into sterilized jars. It takes me about 2 gallons of sap to make 1 pint of syrup from my trees. Yum!
I like syrup, but I also like beer and wine, and they require a LOT less boiling to make!
Here are the recipes I used this year. I haven’t made these before, though I have made similar ones.
Acer Ale — A Quick Old New England Recipe
* 3 gallons of Maple Sap, boiled down to 1.5 gallons.
* Champagne Yeast
Cool boiled sap to 70 degrees, pour into sanitized fermenter, pitch in yeast. Ferment until it is finished, prime bottles (preferably with maple sugar or syrup) and cap. Ready to drink in two weeks.
Maple Beer — Adapted from an old Zymurgy article
* 7 gallons fresh Sap
* 4 pounds light malt extract
* 2 oz. hops
* beer yeast
Choose ingredients that are lighter in flavor to let the maple come through better.
Boil Sap for 40 minutes to kill any beasties in it and set aside. Boil one gallon 45 minutes with hops and malt extract in it. Strain and add to fermenter. Fill fermenter to 5 gallons with remaining sap. Cover and let cool to 70F, pitch in yeast, cover again, ferment until completion. Prime sanitized bottles w/ maple syrup or maple sugar and cap. Ready to drink in two-three weeks!
Can you do it? Would you do it?
My son asked me these questions last week. And I said, of yes, yes you can! And oh yes, yes I would!
Yesterday my mother and I walked around her property talking to the old Maple trees and asking their permission to tap them for sweet, healthful sap. They all said yes, all except one. The most ancient tree on our property, the 2nd oldest sugar maple in the state according to a local tree expert, we did not tap out of respect (We call her the Mother Tree), but we did tap her daughter.
Tapping is fun!
This was my first experience with tapping, so I followed all the experts instructions. I bought a 7/16th” drill, and drilled holes at chest height (about 5 feet up), 1.5 inches deep. The whole time, it smelled like crepes, like caramelized sugar wafting from the street vendors in Paris, a fond childhood memory I have from visiting Dad there every year. Mmmmmm.
I positioned the holes under large branches and/or over large roots for optimal sap collection. Next year I will not use the same holes, but tap at least two inches the right or left of them (not above or below, that still uses the same “veins”.) The sap began to flow right away. We’ve been having warm days and cold nights for a week now, which is the best weather for tapping. I had to wait until my taps arrived by mail, though!
I drove the spiles (taps) in by hand, and hooked on clean gallon jugs to them. That’s it! Now I just need to check them and collect the sap every day or two, and begin the boiling process on the wood stove to make syrup. It takes 30-40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, and I doubt I’ll make anywhere near that much. BUT I am planning on drinking the sap (it’s naturally sterile, totally filtered, full of minerals and enzymes, and yummy yummy, even tho its just 2-3 % sugar). In Korea they drink the sap as a health ritual every year. And I also want to make Maple Beer and Maple Wine. Yum yum yum. I will include the recipes I have for those and my experience with them when we do that!
All in all we tapped 7 trees, even tho we had taps and 10 jugs, my mother and I aren’t sure we can use that much sap! We both have wood stoves and plan on splitting the sap between us. She is very excited, and followed me around holding the jugs on a long rope, declaring how proud she was of her “homesteading, pioneering daughter.” LOL. We’ll see if said daughter can make some good, consumable items out of this sap before my inner jury decides
I am looking forward to tapping some maple trees later this year for the first time — here is a neat article about the sap itself, which can be used as a healthy beverage or addition to recipes as well as being boiled into sap. Good to know, since it takes 30-40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! I tried some sap about 9 years ago — it was very tasty We usually are still burning the wood stove all day in March, tapping season around here, so we’ll do both: boil and drink. Though I don’t see myself drinking 5 gallons in one sitting, you?
In South Korea, Drinks Are on the Maple Tree
By CHOE SANG-HUN
Published: March 5, 2009
HADONG, South Korea — At this time of year, when frogs begin stirring from their winter sleep and woodpeckers drill for newly active insects, villagers climb the hills around here to collect a treasured elixir: sap from the maple tree known as gorosoe.
For centuries, southern Korean villagers like Mr. Park have been tapping the gorosoe, or “tree good for the bones.”
In this they are not alone. Some people in Japan and northern China drink maple sap, and birch sap has its fans in Russia and other parts of northern Europe. But no one surpasses southern Koreans in their enthusiasm for maple sap, which they can consume in prodigious quantities.
Today, villagers usually drill holes in the trees and insert plastic spouts. A maze of plastic tubing carries the sap to holding tanks downhill.
Mr. Kang, the researcher, says careful tapping is harmless. To ensure this, the national forest authorities recently began requiring licenses for sap collectors and regulating the number of holes they can bore into each tree.