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Recipe-Maple Syrup - tapping maples for sap

Updated on April 10, 2014

This is a picture of my way of harvesting maple sap. This is the plastic bag from boxed wine. It works great because it contains the sap and leaves little opening for bugs to enter. Notice the maple tree? Take a good look at the bark.

January 26, 2014 - Catch the Window of Opportunity

I was so fascinated with maple tree tapping at Great Swamp Outdoors, I purchased five taps from the facility, took them home and tapped my some maples in my yard. This year 2014, I took advantage of the warm spring air at the end of January. My son and I took to the woods for the third year. We tapped five maple trees. They started dripping right away.

We used an antique hand drill (brace and bit) about 1/4 inch thick. The bit we used was the perfect size for my taps. I don't know if all taps are the same size so make sure your drill is the size you need for your tap before you venture out. Your tap should be able to be hammered into the tree snug. When you drill make sure the depth is the same distance as the shaft on the tap.

Brace and Bit

I was so happy to get out on a warm spring-like day and be one with nature and my son. We tapped five trees together. It was a nice relaxing hour of tapping. We managed to harvest 6 gallons of sap before the temperatures plummeted.

The weather turned on us just like that, like a light switch. The bitter cold set in again. All dripping stopped. Actually, it got so cold I plumb ignored the maple trees. I was too busy fetching wood and shoveling out from under storm after storm after storm.

Finally, after the storms subsided I was faced with a much needed reprisal and took full advantage of the time off. I began cooking down my harvest. I even managed to cook some down on an open fire.

February 21, 2014

The window of opportunity has opened and I'm going for it despite the fact that 24" of snow is beneath my feet. I'll compress the snow pathing the way to my harvest. Talk about a work out.

February 21, 2014 - Preparing for the second harvest.

February 21, 2014

Finally we got another break in the weather. Like a spring day again. With 18 to 24 inches of snow out side I was not really too excited to investigate my sap harvest. I took to the woods anyway. Every step I took I sunk 20 inches or more. If I really wanted to harvest my trees I had to come up with a plan to get to them. I took a flat piece of plastic and proceeded down the path compressing the snow in front of each step I took. What a work out. Some sap was retrieved.

Tapped Tree Hiding Out, So Camouflaged

Seeking to show Brace and Bit and How It Works

There was so much snow that I could only find three tapped trees with bags on them. I was so surprised to see the frozen bags half way full. I couldn't find the other two tapped trees and was not about to tread through 24" of snow looking so I just replaced the full sap bags with empty ones and brought the harvest to the house to thaw.

Now that I learned when I can walk on snow without sinking I have been getting up every morning about 8 am and go out and search for the number 5 tapped maple tree.

Here are a few videos I took after this harvest showing you a close up of the bag and my first harvest of that season.

Showing the Bags Used for Harvesting

Ya I forgot about the bags hanging on my maple trees in zero degree weather and 24" of snow. The window of opportunity allowed me to regain composure and seize my sap.

When is harvesting time?

So out of four gallons of sap I harvested for the first time of 2014, I made this much syrup. About 3 oz. Although this 3 oz is not grade B. To thicken up the syrup and make it a little more creamier and a little more sweeter I should cook this a little further. It will reduce to about 1 oz.

How much maple syrup can you get from 3 gallons of maple sap?

Hint, one morning I proceeded out to the woods to check on thinks and realized that I could walk on top of the snow. Now I could cover more ground. In the early morning it's easier to navigate. You can walk right on the snow. I took advantage of this to look for the two lost tapped trees. I walked all over looking. Well I found one more. One tree and tap is still unaccounted for. So every morning I get up and walk on the snow looking. Can you see it?

This is how I cooked down this batch of sap. In the video, I refer to the whole batch of liquid as water, but on the contrary, the liquid is the sap harvested from the maple trees (about 3 gallons)

All I'm doing is cooking water out of maple sap.

The more you cook the water out of the maple sap the better grade of maple syrup you will get. The syrup will be thicker, creamier and sweeter.

Cooking water out of maple sap till it bubbles and becomes syrup.

It takes a long time to make maple syrup from the raw. I happen to love the experience. Just showing you in the best way I can the concept of cooking down sap to syrup.

Sap harvested, sap cooked down, sap becoming syrup.

Now you can avoid the time it takes standing by the stove cooking the sap down. You could cook down the sap a few ways like:

  • on the wood stove
  • on the kitchen stove
  • in a crock pot with the lid off
  • on an open fire while you are chatting amongst friends

Sap harvested, sap cooked down, sap cooked down even more.

The longer you stand behind the stove your syrup will become:

  • sweeter
  • thicker and creamier
  • a better grade
  • more expensive (time is money)

Sap harvested, sap cooked down twice, sap change B grade syrup.

The longer you cook the water out of the sap the better the grade syrup.

Four colors associated with tapping a maple tree.

What ever way you decide to cook down the sap do it safely. Don't walk away from the heat for too long. The best part of the process is watching the light golden color turn dark and lush. Once you see foaming, lower your flame so you have better control of the consistency you fancy.

  1. tap the tree 4' from the ground up at the end of January to the beginning of February
  2. put any kind of container over the tap to catch the sap.
  3. harvest the sap when sun is setting and cold comes back (about 4pm)
  4. put all sap in a pot and start cooking the water out
  5. Enjoy your syrup (reap what you sow)

Maple sugar tapping and distiller

Eat what you sow. Drizzle on your entree. I wish you could taste this through the camera.

Remember, come the end of March, the beginning of April, take the taps out of the trees and put them in a good place where you will not forget them.

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 3 hours
Yields: Approximately 3 gals sap yields 1 oz grade B syrup


  • brace and bit, any drill will do/size matters
  • taps, more taps more maple syrup sap
  • hammer, gently hammer tap in maple tree
  • stove, crock pot, outside fire pit, anything that will continually cook water out of the sap, gas and electric will cost you
  • glass jar, for storage

Here's another way to cook down maple sap and turn it into maple syrup.

Do you love your maple syrup?

Cast your vote for maple syrup

Maple Syrup Naturally Delicious

The following link has nothing to do with making maple syrup. Ironically the disease was named after the maple syrup due to it's similar aroma of maple syrup. .


I went out to check the maple syrup sap bags knowing full well there would be nothing in them. The sap has stopped dripping from the maples. It is way too cold out. I have been in for about ten minutes now and my cheeks are still on fire. So, instead of just checking the maples making sure the bags are still on the trees I decided to venture off into the woods and follow the woodpecker. I was able to walk anywhere I wanted to go due to the frozen snow beneath my feet and I took advantage of it. I followed the sounds of the woodpecker till I approached a steep grade and decided to back off and go the other way. Back and forth I walked through the woods enjoying the footprints of all the other creatures venturing through. What a nice walk.

March 3, 2014 - Baby it's cold out side.

The snow still frozen under my feet and the trees are at a stand still. No sun no sap. I so desperately want to boil down some sap over an open fire. Temperatures are holding steady below freezing.

Marth 6, 2014? Where is the Sap?

Not here.

March 7, 2014 - What is that, 14 degrees?

March 8, 2014

Ok, today is the day I believe that the maple trees are going to pour out the sap. I am getting ready to go down and check. The temp has risen.

3/8/14 - 9:30 AM - Is that above freezing? 30 degrees and rising

Well this morning was not the day. Must have to be warmer than a little above freezing.

By the way, my husband made a few taps for me so I can show you how to use the brace and bit since I havn't done that yet. We used the home made taps on two birch trees. As of yet we haven't got a single drip from them. Since the maples aren't dripping I am assuming the birch isn't either. I never tapped a birch or tasted home made birch syrup. Have you? Brace yourself.

March 8, 2014 - Spring Thaw

The trees are dripping but slowly. No full bags this morning.

Let's tap a black birch and make black birch syrup.

March 11, 2014 9:00 AM

The maple trees are not sapping. Today is supposed to get up to 58 degrees. Time will tell. I'll give it till 4:00 PM and see what happens.

Tapping a birch tree. Part I

Tapping a birch tree. Making a home made wood tap. Part II

Tapping a birch tree. Making home made maple syrup tap. Part III

March 8, 2014 - Are they dripping yet?

March 12, 2014

I went out at 4:00 PM and not a drip. The temperature was mild. I thought sure the maples and now birch would drip but to no avail. Anticipation, is making me wait, is keeping me waiting.

March 15, 2014 - about 52 degrees

I went out this morning around 10;30 and managed to scrape up 2 gallons. So now I think they are going to start dripping till the cows come home. Not. I go out there at 4:30 pm and not a drip. Seriously? I just am baffled how this years harvest is. Well, anyway, 2 gallons is better than no gallons. It will make about 1 ounce. Seriously, this to me is the taste of gold, liquid gold. Mmmmmmmm.

Tapping A Birch Tree

April 10, 2014

Well it is official. The Maple Trees have definitely stopped dripping. I cleaned up the bags that blew off the trees from the strong winter winds. The taps are ready to be removed. Cheers to the Maple Trees for providing what they could during this season's winter blues.

Now, I move on to the Birch trees. They are dripping and giving me approximately two gallons every other day. I have cooked at least four gallons down and received about two ounces. The syrup tastes very sweet with a hint of birch. Baby it's still cold outside. At 7:30 AM April 10, 2014 it is just below freezing.

April 10, 2014 - Winds have died down. Not a cloud in the sky.


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    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      4 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      That is interesting. What's the best grade of maple syrup?

    • More Than Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Bogwald 

      4 years ago from Oak Ridge, NJ

      Thanx, it works wonders. Still brewing as we speak. Love that syrup.

    • More Than Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Bogwald 

      4 years ago from Oak Ridge, NJ

      Yep. Primitive is exactly what I am striving for. Tell your in-laws to send me a taste and I will return receipt. Pam, 5327 Berkshire Valley Road, #2 Oak Ridge, NJ 07438

    • clairewait profile image


      4 years ago from North Carolina

      This is an interesting approach to a small maple syrup system. My in-laws still operate a fully functioning sap house on their farm, and harvest gallons and gallons of maple syrup each season. They do it all themselves with the help of neighbors, so it is still very much a primitive approach, but a little more streamlined and professional than what you've written about here. Your way is cool though, for making a small/personal amount. Nothing beats my in-laws homemade pure Michigan maple syrup, that's for sure.

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 

      4 years ago from India

      Hmmm i must say... Good hub this is.


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