How do you know when to tap a maple tree?

  • A maple tree is usually at least 45 years old and 12 inches in diameter before it is tapped.   We have trees of up to 150 years old still producing sap.
  • As a tree increases in diameter, more taps can be added: up to a maximum of three.

Does tapping hurt the tree?

  • Tapping does no permanent damage to the tree and less than 10% of the sap in the tree is collected each year.  Recently we have reduced the diameter of the holes we drill into the tree when we tap.  The result is even less stress on the tree.  Each summer the tree gows new wood over the taphole and each spring we drill a new hole in a different spot on the tree.

How much sap does a tree give each season?

  • Each tap yields an average of 10 gallons of sap per season: that yields about one quart of syrup.  Larger trees have more than one tap so give more sap.

What makes the sap flow?

  Warm sunny days (above 40 degrees F) and frosty nights are ideal for sap flow.  Sap only flows as the tree is thawing out or freezing.  On warm days the sap begins to flow and will continue if the night is not frosty.  When the tree is thawed out completely the sap stops flowing and only starts again when the tree freezes again.
When is maple season?

  • The maple season may last 4 to 6 weeks, but sap flow is heaviest for 10 to 20 days.  For us this is the month of March with sometimes a few days in late February or early April as well.
  • Sap flowing in high volumes is called a “run.”  A”run” is a series of days where in the daytime  the trees thaw out and the nights freeze the tree again.  A “run” is over when a warm night does not refreeze the tree and prolong the flow the next day.  A season is a series of “runs”, perhaps 6 or 8 “runs” , lasting from 1 to 5 or 6 days each.

How do you know that the season is over?

  • The harvest season ends with the arrival of warm spring nights and  bud development in the trees.  The buds swell in preparation to bloom into leaves.  Sap collected at this time has an awful smell when boiled and the syrup has an off flavor.   We do not sell “buddy” syrup and production must stop at that time.

How much sap does it take to make a gallon of syrup?

  • 30-50 gallons of sap are evaporated to make one gallon of syrup.  Sap sweetness varies from season to season and within a season so the amount of sap required to make a gallon of syrup varies.

How is maple candy and sugar made?

  • Maple syrup is boiled even further to produce maple cream, sugar and candy.  the higher the final temperature of the syrup the harder the sugar produced.  How much the liquid is cooled and how it is whipped or beaten also determines what size and type of sugar crystals develop.

How much syrup does it take to make a pound of sugar?

  • It takes one gallon of syrup to produce eight pounds of candy or sugar.  More like 9 pounds of cream will be produced from that gallon as cream has some suspended syrup in it.

How do you know how long to cook the sap to make syrup?

  • A gallon of pure maple syrup weighs 11 pounds by law.
  • The sugar content of sap averages 2.5%, of syrup 66.5%.  We use 2 instruments to find that magic 66.5%.  One is a thermometer as syrup should boil at exactly 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water.  This is a good way to measure the sweetness except that the boiling point of water changes with the barometer and the weather.  To adjust for this problem we also use a hydrometer which measures the density of a sample of syrup at a particular temperature.  If we use the hydrometer with the thermometer we can find the number that is 7.1 degrees above the boiling point at a particular moment and then proceed to measure the boiling syrup with a thermometer until the weather changes again.

Who discovered maple syrup?

We know that Native Americans knew about the sweetness of maple sap and how to boil it to concentrate it.  It is doubtful they made much actual maple syrup as they did not have metal pots to boil the sap directly and had to heat up rocks and drop them into wooden containers containing the sap.  More likely they would make stews or broths with sweetened sap that was not concentrated to syrup stage.  We also know that the natives knew that maple sap contains vitamin c.  They would chew on maple branches in the winter and avoid scurvy.  There is at least one group of settlers in Quebec that survived their first winter in the New World only because Native Americans passed along this trick.

Was maple syrup ever more popular than now?

Before the Civil War maple was the primary sweetener used in the northeast.  Cane sugar was expensive to import into the hinterlands of the northeast and maple trees were very common with many settlers having little other farmwork to do in late winterMost boiling of sap at this time was to make maple sugar which required boiling beyond the syrup stage.  The thicker syrup was poured into molds where it cooled into hard sugar bars which kept well all year on a shelf and could be grated to have sugar for many uses in cooking.  Look below: