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Making Maple Syrup

Updated on April 22, 2015

Dripping Maple Goodness

Antique "spile" or "spout" used to tap maple syrup from maple trees
Antique "spile" or "spout" used to tap maple syrup from maple trees | Source

What is Maple Syrup?

One of my earliest memories is of helping my grandfather to tap trees and then collect the maple sap during sugaring season.

When I was little there were huge Maple Trees growing on either side of the road. My grandfather explained that the number of buckets that could be hung on a tree depended on the age of the tree and the circumference of the trunk. He would look at a tree and say That's a two bucket tree or that's a three bucket tree. Only the very old, exceptionally large trees were five or six bucket trees.

Let's learn about tapping trees, boiling sap and how the sap is turned in pure Vermont Maple Syrup...

Make your own Maple Syrup! - How to Tap a Maple Tree...

Making Maple Syrup
Making Maple Syrup | Source

How to tap a Maple Tree

Of course the first step in tapping a maple tree is to identify the trees you plan to tap. I suggest that you start in the summer or fall before the leaves fall from the trees. It is much easier to identify trees from their leaves than from their trunks.

The illustration by Shawn Braley above helps us visualize the process of tapping trees.

  • Drill a hole in the trunk to allow sap to flow into the tap
  • Pound a tap into the hole so that the sap runs out
  • Hang a bucket from the tap to collect the sap
  • Place a lid over the bucket to keep debris and precipitation out of the bucket.
  • Collect the sap at least a couple of times a day.

How to Tap a Maple Tree

The Sap is Running - Drip, Drip Drip...

Watch the maple sap run out the spicket into the bucket.

This very short video brings back the sounds of spring as the sap in the maple trees run out the spicket and drop into the bucket.

It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. I wonder how many drops that is?

Cold Nights and Warm Days

It takes cold nights when the temperatures drop below freezing makes the sap retreat to the roots of the maple trees. Then in the morning when the sun comes up, the temperatures rise and the sap flows up to the tips of the branches. This liquid carries sugar to encourage the new leaves to grow.

The high concentration of sugar in the sap is what makes the syrup sweet.

Collecting and boiling down the sap leaves the sugar behind creating a sweeter and sweeter liquid.

Boiling Sap - Sugaring Off Time!

Boiling Sap
Boiling Sap | Source

Boiling the Sap

Sap has lots of water in it. We boil the sap to get rid of most of the water. On average it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

The amount of steam coming from the sugar making operation is impressive. This is why it is not a good idea to boil the sap in your kitchen. That amount of liquid can easily peel the wallpaper right off the walls.

Sugaring Off in 1856 - Boiling Down the Maple Syrup in the 19th Century

American Forest Scene, Maple Sugaring, 1856
American Forest Scene, Maple Sugaring, 1856 | Source

Boiling Sap

There is nothing sweeter in the early spring than the smell of sap boiling down to make maple syrup, maple sugar and maple candy.

Farmers all over New England boiled down the sap to provide their families with sugar for the whole year.

As a young child, I helped my grandfather tap trees and when the sap had boiled down enough my grandmother showed me how to stir it to make maple candy just the way the children in this picture did long ago.

My father still make maple syrup each year and we enjoy each and every drop.

Bubble bubble bubble bubble bubble goes the pan,

Furnish better music for the season if you can...

Maple Sweet - Maple Syrup Song

I remember singing this song as a child. Songs like these are still passed on from generation to generation while dads boil the syrup and their children come along to help.

The chorus goes:

Bubble bubble bubble bubble bubble goes the pan,

Furnish better music for the season if you can,

See the golden billows,

Watch their ebb and flow,

Sweetest joys indeed, we sugar makers know....

This song was written by Perrin Batchelder Fisk from Warren, Vt in 1837

Bubble, Bubble, Bubble Maple Sweet Song - Maple Syrup Song

Grades of Maple Syrup - Which grade of Maple Syrup do you prefer?

Maple Syrup Grades
Maple Syrup Grades | Source

Maple Syrup Grades - How Much Maple Flavor do you Want?

Maple Syrup comes in different intensities from Fancy to Dark Amber. The lighter shades are more delicate in flavor and are traditionally more expensive. The are just what you want when you are looking for sweetness but not the maple flavor.

Dark Amber is like molasses. It has a deep rich flavor that is just right for cooking but may be a little intense for pancakes.

My personal favorite is Amber. It has just the right amount of flavor for pancakes, waffles or vanilla ice cream. Be sure to lick the plate when you are finished.

Is there an alternative to Maple Syrup? - The Great Maple Syrup Debate:

What do you put on your pancakes?

100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup

100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup

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    • Ruth Sadri 2 years ago

      no one ever says what to do when you're done tapping do you need to plug the holes? Or just let them be?

    • Nathalie Roy 5 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      As a Canadian, it has to be maple syrup

    • LizRobertson 5 years ago

      As a Vermonter, I'm all about the maple

    • miaponzo 6 years ago

      NO WAY... fake just doesn't cut it!

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      I prefer maple syrup. My mother used to put cream and sugar on her last pancake when we had a pancake supper. She called that her dessert.

    • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Maple syrup is the best! On my pancakes, french toast, whatever, it's the best!

    • maplesyrup59 6 years ago

      Maple Syrup all the way!

    • sheilamarie78 6 years ago

      No contest!

    • ideadesigns 6 years ago

      Maple syrup is great!

    • Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Yes, love pure maple syrup! But other New England states not just Vermont, and even New York where I live, also make great maple syrup.

    • dustytoes 7 years ago

      I love real maple syrup. But the stuff from NH is just as good :)

    • Rhonda Albom 7 years ago from New Zealand

      I agree with you, we buy imported 100% pure Maple syrup, usually from Vermont.

    • SparkleNZ 7 years ago

      100% pure all the way!

    • Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      In desperation I might put fresh picked strawberries with a little homemade whipped cream.

    • Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      It's 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup for me.

    What else is there?

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      • Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

        Maple syrup or fruit.

      • jillbrowne lm 5 years ago

        Maple syrup when I can get it. Nothing is as good! Thanks for this information. I can't vote for Vermont Maple Syrup though being Canadian I'm looking for something from my own country. If I can't get it, I'm sure I would love Vermont's ;-)

      • virtualboy 5 years ago

        sugar free Mrs. Buttterworth's

      • CathyLou LM 6 years ago

        I put sprinkle sugar on my pancakes then squeeze a little lemon juice on them. Delicious!

      • ElizabethJeanAl 7 years ago

        I like maple syrup, but I grew up in the midwest. It's corn syrup for me.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        I'm not crazy about Maple Syrup I prefer Corn Syrup.

      M is for Maple Syrup

      Beautifully illustrated with simple text, large print and few words per page, M is for Maple Syrup is an ideal book for story hour, bedtime stories or as a beginning reader. A smaller, non-rhyming text is written for older children.

      Learn about the unique flora and fauna of Vermont. L is for Lake Champlain and T is for Hermit Thrush.

      View all my reviews >>

      Maple Sweet Game for Preschoolers

      Find several images of the maple syrup production process. These could include horses with a gathering tub, tapping a tree, buckets hung on a tree and pouring a bucket full of sap into a gathering tub.

      Paste these images onto a large sheet of white cardstock or poster board. We will use white because maple sap is gathered when there is snow on the ground in the spring when the temperatures rise above freezing in the daytime but drop to freezing at night.

      Using first a pencil and then a permanent marker, make a series of spaces around the outside of the playing board, each large enough to place one of the sap buckets. The sap buckets will be the playing pieces. Laminate the board for durability.

      Place a small bowl for a collection tub in the middle of the board.

      To tell which sap bucket is which, paint each bucket with a different color.

      Children roll one die and add that many sap drops to their sap buckets and then move that number of spaces around the board.

      When a bucket is full, the child gets to dump the sap into the collection tub.

      When the collection tub is full, the game is all over and everybody wins.

      End of Sugaring Season

      When the temperatures remain above freezing day and night the leaves begin to form on the trees. The sap changes flavor and sugaring season is over.

      Some years sugaring season lasts for 6 weeks. Sometimes it only lasts for a few days.

      When the season is over it is time to clean up.

      • Pull out the taps,
      • Collect the buckets and covers
      • Rinse out the pipe lines
      • Wash the pots and pans
      • Sweep out the sugar house

      The holes where the taps were drilled will heal over. The leaves will grow and the tree will prepare for another sugaring season next year.

      Maple Syrup Messages:

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        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 3 years ago from Royalton

          @David Stone1: I'm going to bet that you tapped and boiled down the sap in the spring rather than the fall since that is when the sap flows. :)

        • David Stone1 profile image

          David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

          I remember discovering how the maples ran with sap in the fall from my brothers. We put taps in, and then, the most amazing thing was boiling it down to syrup. Fresh, it was great.

        • Brite-Ideas profile image

          Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

          I have to get to Vermont - it's on my bucket list!

        • CherylsArt profile image

          Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

          It's amazing how much sap it takes to make syrup.

        • Anahid LM profile image

          Anahid LM 4 years ago

          @DLeighAlexander: This is very nice lens I want to travel and go see those trees. Thank you great. Anna

        • DLeighAlexander profile image

          DLeighAlexander 4 years ago

          Vermont is a great place and maple syrup is delicious. Enjoyed reading this lens. Blessed :)

        • thingsofinterest profile image

          thingsofinterest 5 years ago

          Great lens, nice memories.....I love maple syrup and love to cook with it. I put it in beef stew and pot roast when I make them. Mix a little cinnamon in and dip apple segments in it.

        • virtualboy profile image

          virtualboy 5 years ago

          I love maple syrup but I;m a diabetic

        • traveller27 profile image

          traveller27 5 years ago

          Nothing like maple syrup....I grew up in eastern Canada and one of my uncles had a sugar bush. Fun times eating taffy and riding snowmobiles!

        • Craftymarie profile image

          Marie 5 years ago

          You've got some fantastic learning lenses here but you really made my mouth water with this one!

        • CathyLou LM profile image

          CathyLou LM 6 years ago

          What a tradition! I have only recently tried maple syrup but its really delicious! I bet your fresh pure maple syrup tastes the best.

        • profile image

          miaponzo 6 years ago

          Thank you for this great lens!

        • maplesyrup59 profile image

          maplesyrup59 6 years ago

          Not only is maple syrup delicious, it is healthy too! Nice lens!

        • sheilamarie78 profile image

          sheilamarie78 6 years ago

          The darker the better, I say. We made maple syrup with our kids when they were small. Actually that was in Quebec (before we lived in Vermont) where -- dare I say it! -- MOST maple syrup is made. There, I've admitted it and set the record straight! Whew!

        • profile image

          ideadesigns 6 years ago

          Mmmm pancakes in the morning with my favorite maple syrup, thanks for sharing I learned a lot about it. Love the picture with the different shades of syrup. (=

        • eclecticeducati1 profile image

          eclecticeducati1 6 years ago

          We went on a Maple Syrup making field trip once. It was really interesting. Great lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

        • profile image

          anonymous 6 years ago

          There is a great documetary of the history of sugaring in a small vermont town. It is fascinating and a great account along with pictures of people,sugarhouses and stories of the time. It is a really different and interesting side of Vermont history in the NorthEast Kingdom and the town of Lunenbug. The book is called "A Wicked Good Run" Contact me if interested and I will let you know how to get a copy of this wonderful book.

        • profile image

          marsha32 7 years ago

          interesting... my mom always made it from scratch....that is using sugar, water and maple flavoring

        • jptanabe profile image

          Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

          Mmm, yes pure maple syrup is the best. I've never made it though we have so many maple trees where we live. But I do love it on my pancakes!

        • dustytoes profile image

          dustytoes 7 years ago

          Great lens - it's the only way to eat pancakes and I add it to my green tea as well.

        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

          @RhondaAlbom: Thank you for stopping by to taste the sticky sweetness of our maple syrup.

        • RhondaAlbom profile image

          Rhonda Albom 7 years ago from New Zealand

          Yummy, nothing quite like real maple syrup. Loved learning a bit more about it here.

        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

          @ElizabethJeanAl: Lately I have discovered how much pancakes hide the taste of the maple syrup so I now like to eat just a teaspoon of maple syrup all by itself. Sweet and delicious.

        • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

          ElizabethJeanAl 7 years ago

          When I was a child we would get the cans of maple syrup. I loved it but it's so sweet. I use it in some of my deserts but I don't put it on my pancakes.

          Thanks for sharing


        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

          @debraanne: Thank you for stopping by for some virtual Maple Syrup.

        • Virginia Allain profile image

          Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

          I lensrolled this to my Cooking New England Style lens. Very enjoyable.

        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

          @Virginia Allain: We certainly do like to cook with Maple Syrup in Vermont.

        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

          @JenOfChicago LM: Nothing beats Pure Vermont Maple Syrup.

        • profile image

          debraanne 7 years ago

          What a "delicious" lens! And I love the pictures!!

        • Virginia Allain profile image

          Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

          @evelynsaenz1: My husband tells of pulling icicles off maple trees to suck on for the maple flavor. He grew up in Maine.

        • JenOfChicago LM profile image

          JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

          This looks delicious - I really want to find some homemade syrup now!

        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

          @WhiteOak50: Thank you, SquidAngel. Sending you Maple Syrup wishes.

        • WhiteOak50 profile image

          WhiteOak50 7 years ago

          I enjoy your lenses so much! They are always so educational and loaded with very informative information! My husband is a HUGE fan of Maple Syrup. Every Christmas one of his salesman gives him a bottle of The State of Vermont 100% pure maple syrup as a gift. My husband will not eat anything on his frenchtoast except for this maple syrup.

          "Blessed by a SquidAngel"

        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

          I too devoured the Laura Ingles Wilder books. The sugaring off dance was one of my favorite tales. Growing up we also ate sugar on snow and as it started to cook down and cool we stirred it until it made maple candy just like Grandma made in the Little House in the Big Woods..

        • SparkleNZ profile image

          SparkleNZ 7 years ago

          As a kid I avidly read Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Little House In The Big Woods and loved her descriptions of maple syrup making back in the 19th century. I looked forward to trying the syrup myself for years, and wasn't disappointed! I think you are really lucky to have the maple tradition as part of your childhood memories :-)