Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Maple Sugaring

It's about that time of the year to tap maple trees for syrup . . . 
Last year, we knew we had at least five or so maple trees on our property. We tried to identify these before all the leaves fell in 2011. My husband bought this Maple Sugaring Teacher Kit for me for Christmas to get us started, though just the spiles, any kind of food grade collecting bucket, and a way to boil the sap down outside works great. It's time to tap when there are freezing nights and warmer days. 

Supplies needed:
drill bit
spiles and possibly tubing
buckets to collect and store sap
pots to boil
heat source for outside (we used propane tanks--Franger Gas is the cheapest we have found for refills) 
Maple trees (any Acer trees will work)

We bought out spiles and tubing at Yoder's Hardware in Shipshewana. We bought food grade buckets at Lowe's, though you can often find them at bakeries or places like E&S Sales in Shipshewana. 

The basic process is drilling a hole in a maple tree, collecting the sap in buckets, boiling down the sap until it becomes a thick syrup, and storing it for use. Sounds easy, right? So, it's not too hard, but it does take time to boil, boil, boil and this should be done outside until the very end due to the large volume of evaporation. 

Here is a video that explains the process from Missouri. Tap My Trees also has a plethora of information on tapping trees. Here is another good video by Woodland Indian Educational Programs, looking at the native way of making maple sugar. It shows how hot stone boiling was used. 

If you don't want to go to the hassle of making your own maple syrup, many local farmers make this and sell it at local farmers markets. No trees? Some "borrow" their neighbors' trees in return for a small share of the spoils. 

Here are a few programs to learn more about tapping trees:

Tapping Day at Bendix Woods County Park and Maple Wood Nature Center

Backyard Maple Syrup Making with Elkhart County Parks

Science Sleuths: Maple Syrup

There are several festivals and tree tapping days in the area:
Maple Syrup Days, Maple Wood (LaGrange)
Sugar Camp Days, Bendix Woods