When it comes to maple sugaring, timing is everything. When the temperature rises above freezing (32 degrees) during the day and dips below freezing at night, it's the perfect time to tap those trees. It generally flows for four to six weeks.
Pro tip: Start early. The best sap is produced early on.
Can you identify a maple tree? If not, now's the time to get a field guide. Tapping the wrong tree isn't going to do you any good. The most common types of maples to tap are sugar, black, red and silver maples. Make sure they're mature trees, at least 12 inches in diameter, healthy and in a location that gets lots of sun.
How many taps can you put into a tree? It's based on the tree's diameter. Here's a general rule of thumb.
- 12-20 inches around: 1 tap
- 21-27 inches around: 2 taps
- More than 27 inches: 3 taps
Here are some of the supplies you need:
- Maple sap spouts (also called spiles)
- Sap collecting bags
- Sap bag holder
- CDL maple sap hydrometer (to test the sweetness of your sap prior to cooking)
- Maple syrup filters
You might be saying to yourself, don't people just use buckets to collect the sap? What's with the bags? The answer is, you can use buckets if you'd like, but bags are lighter, easier to handle in the field, and let sunlight shine on the sap, which kills bacteria.
You'll also find tubing near the maple tree tapping supplies. What's that for? It's for larger operations with multiple (even hundreds) of taps. If you're just tapping a tree or two in your backyard, you don't have to worry about it.
Now that you've got your supplies, it's time to set out into the woods (or your backyard).
Pro tips: If the tree has been tapped before, don't tap within 6 inches of the hole. If you're using more than one tap on a tree, space them apart around the tree.
Here's what to do:
- Drill the hole. The size of the drill bit should be the same size as your spout (also called a spile). Most spouts are 7/16 or 5/16, so make sure you use the right-size bit. The hole should be 2 inches deep, and drilled at a slight upward angle so the sap can flow out.
- Insert the spout. Clean out any wood shavings from the hole and, if you're using a hook, insert the end of the spout into the loop on the hook and then pop it into the hole, tapping it gently with a hammer to set it in place. If the sap is flowing, you should see it right away.
- Hang the bucket or bag and bag holder. If you're using a bucket, make sure it's got a sturdy lid to deter critters.
And that's all there is to it! All you have to do now is wait for the sap to run. How long it takes depends on the tree and the day. Some days, your bag might fill quickly, other days you might get only a small amount.
Pro tip: Sap is clear, not the caramel color we associate with syrup.
Pro tip: It takes 10 gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup, so be patient! You're not going to collect it all in one day.
Storing Your Collected Sap
Use food-grade containers, like buckets or jugs. Just make sure they're squeaky clean to prevent contamination. Using a solution of one part bleach to 20 parts water, scrub the containers and rinse them multiple times to remove any trace of the bleach.
Collect your sap daily until you get as much as you'd like, pouring it into the storage container through a sap filter.
Store it in a cold place, 38 degrees or colder, for no more than a couple of days. It will go bad very quickly if you don't keep it cold.
Turning Your Sap Into Syrup
Now it's time to boil it down. You can boil it indoors, but the process generates a lot of steam. A better option is to boil it outside over a fire or other heat source, like your grill.
- Fill a large pot 3/4 full of sap.
- Set the pot onto the heat source and get to boiling!
- Once it starts to boil down, refill with more sap but try to keep it boiling.
- When it's almost finished boiling down (it's still fluid but has turned a caramel color), transfer it to a pan and then go ahead and take it indoors to finish it.
- When the boiling is complete, it will have the consistency of syrup. Watch it carefully at this point because it's likely to boil over at this stage.
- Let the syrup cool and then filter it in small batches into a clean container, like a glass measuring cup. There's a special filter for this step, the CDL maple syrup orlon filter bag, that will ensure you're getting properly-filtered syrup.
- Sterilize a bottle and a cap by boiling them in water.
- Pour your syrup into the bottle, pop it into the fridge and enjoy it within two months.
For a delicious way to use your new supply of maple syrup, read below for some mouth-watering, maple syrup-infused recipes:
Dijon Maple Glazed Salmon
A salmon recipe combining the sweetness of maple syrup with the zippy tang of Dijon mustard, making it a delicious and nutritious meal.
- 1.5 lbs Salmon Filet
- 1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard
- 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
- Salt & Pepper to Taste
Preheat oven to 375. Pat salmon dry using a paper towel. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Place salmon on covered baking sheet. In a small bowl mix mustard, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth. Brush the mustard maple mixture on salmon, reserved a small amount for glazing later. Bake salmon for 9 minutes. Remove from oven, brush remaining mixture on salmon. Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes until salmon flakes with a fork. Remove and serve!
How to Make Maple Butter
Add maple buttery goodness on top of French toast, pancakes, fresh cornbread, rolls, biscuits, crusty whole grain bread, and whatever else you can think of.
- 1 Cup Maple Syrup
- Pinch of Cinnamon
- Pinch of Salt
- 3/4 Cup Unsalted Butter, Cut into Chunks
In a medium saucepan, add maple syrup and pinch of salt and cinnamon. Heat maple syrup over high heat until boiling (*be sure to use a large-ish pan, as syrup will boil up about double or more). Attach or insert thermometer and boil until syrup reaches 240F. Immediately remove from heat and stir in butter until it's completely melted. Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer or alternately, use a large bowl with a hand mixer. Start on low speed and gradually increase speed until you reach high. Continue to beat on high until mixture is lightened and creamy, about 8-10 minutes total. (Mixture will still be a bit runny at this point. Don't worry, it will firm up in the fridge.) Pour into a jar or bowl, cover and refrigerate. If your maple butter has separated after cooling (leaving a layer of butter on top) simply stir the butter back in to incorporate. Maple butter will keep refrigerated in an air-tight container about 2 weeks.
Maple Roasted Pork Loin
Moist and tender, seasoned oh-so-perfectly, this pork loin recipe might just become one of your favorites.
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup, Divided
- 1/4 Cup Light Molasses
- 1 tbls Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1/4 Cup Cornstarch
- 2 tbls Sugar
- 1 tbls Salt
- 2 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 Pork Tenderloins (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each)
- 2 tbls Vegetable Oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Stir 1/4 cup maple syrup, molasses, vinegar, paprika and ginger together in a liquid measuring cup or bowl; set aside. Whisk cornstarch, sugar, salt, and black pepper in small bowl until combined. Transfer the cornstarch mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the pork tenderloins dry with paper towels, then roll in cornstarch mixture until evenly coated on all sides. Pat or shake off the excess cornstarch (really important or the excess coating can get gummy). In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat shimmering and hot. Place both tenderloins in the skillet, leaving at least 1 inch in between and cook until well browned on all sides, 5-6 minutes total. Transfer the tenderloins to a lightly greased oven-proof wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. If you don't have a rack that size, the tenderloins can be placed on a lightly greased baking sheet - the coating on the undersides of the pork may be a bit soft after baking but it will still work fine. Pour off any excess grease/fat from the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the syrup mixture to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, and simmer the mixture until it is reduced slightly, 1-2 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons of the hot glaze to a small bowl and set aside. Using the remaining glaze, brush each tenderloin with approximately 1 tablespoon glaze. Roast the pork for about 15-20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of tenderloins registers 130 degrees. Brush each tenderloin with another tablespoon glaze and continue to roast another 4-6 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of tenderloins registers 135 to 140 degrees. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush the pork with the remaining glaze. Let the pork rest for 10 minutes. While the tenderloins rest, stir the remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup into the reserved 1 1/2 tablespoons glaze (you may need to warm the reserved glaze slightly if it has thickened). Brush each tenderloin with the glaze (it's ok if there is some remaining; read on). Slice the pork into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices and serve with the remaining glaze.
Peanut Butter Maple Fudge
They say peanut butter goes with just about anything. Here it teams up with maple syrup and chopped peanuts to make a heavenly fudge. Better make two batches!
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1/3 Cup Salted Natural Peanut Butter
- 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 Cup Roasted Salted Peanuts, Coarsely Chopped, Divided
Line a mini muffin pan with 12 waxed or silicone muffin liners. You can alternatively line a small container with parchment paper or waxed paper. In a small saucepan, mix together the maple syrup, peanut butter and coconut oil over medium heat. If your peanut butter is unsalted, add a pinch of salt. At first it won't appear to come together well. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and while continuing to stir constantly, boil for about 2 minutes. It should have thickened a bit. If you use a heavy bottom pan, you may need to boil it a little longer. Stir in the vanilla until well combined. Stir in 5 tablespoons chopped peanuts, if using. Pour into the waxed or silicone liners, top with remaining 3 tablespoons chopped peanuts, if using, and place the pan in the freezer. If you don't have room in your freezer, refrigerate for a few hours until firm and then transfer the fudge pieces to a small container that does fit in your freezer. Freeze for about 2-3 hours. The liners will be easy to remove once the fudge has thoroughly frozen. This fudge does not travel well (unless you have a cooler!) It should be kept refrigerated or frozen.
Can't wait until tree-tapping season begins? Shop our assortment of maple-flavored treats, already prepared for your enjoyment.