Making Maple Syrup
Dripping Maple Goodness
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...
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 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
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
- Maple Sweet by P B Fisk
Lyrics to the song Maple Sweet including a fascinating discussion about Perrin Batchelder Fisk and the Maple Sweet Song.
- Maple Sweet Lyrics and Coloring Page
Sing the Maple Sweet song by Perrin Batchelder Fisk while coloring a picture of pancakes and a sugarhouse.
- Sugaring Time Word Search
Find each of the following words. TAPHOLES SUGARING TIME NITER DENSITY SUGAR BUSH BAROMETER PANCAKES RUN BUDDY FLOW SUGAR HOUSE MAPLE SUGAR SNOW GRADE TAP SPOUTS SAP EVAPORTATION FILTER WEATHER SYRUP BOILING
Bubble, Bubble, Bubble Maple Sweet Song - Maple Syrup Song
Grades of Maple Syrup - Which grade of Maple Syrup do you prefer?
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?
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.
Maple Syrup Activity Books and Coloring Pages
- Maple Syrup Activity Book - Cornell University
Maple Syrup Activity Book. Twenty four pages of education and activities targeting students in 3rd through 6th grade. Product Information: Word puzzles, find the hidden items, identification of various items, mazes, art options and more all are part
- New York Printables - New York Coloring Page - Sugar Maple
New York Printables - New York Coloring Page - Sugar Maple. Print the New York coloring page and color the picture.
- Welcome to Our Sugarhouse Coloring Book
Coloring Book about making Maple Syrup
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.