Homemade pancakes made from my food storage are excellent by themselves, but when you add some homemade maple syrup to them they are so good I wouldn’t mind surviving the apocalypse just on those alone.
In all seriousness though, the more experience you can get in making/hunting/foraging for your own food the more thriving and the less surviving you’ll be doing if things ever get as bad as some think they might get; and having maple syrup is one of those things that could really be a morale booster in tough times.
Making your own maple syrup is actually a very simple process.
Here’s how it’s done (if you want a written description, just skip the video and go directly to the article below it):
How to Make Your Own Maple Syrup
What You’ll Need
Even though (at the writing of this article) the syrup season is winding down, I would recommend getting the equipment ahead of time so that you have it when you need it.
- Maple or birch trees (yes, birch trees will make birch syrup not maple syrup)
Bucket or other food-grade container
- Large cooking pot
- Heat source – this can be your grill, a propane cooker (what I use), rocket stove or a simple campfire
Making Maple Syrup: Step-by-Step
Step 1: Drill a hole about 2 inches deep that is slightly smaller in diameter than your tap. You’ll want to drill at a slight upward angle and on the south facing side of the tree.
Step 2: Hammer in your taps or “spiles”.
If tapped in correctly, you should see sap dripping from it.
Step 3: Attach container to your tap. If you’re using a hose/tap combination like I use, then just run the tubing into the container (I drilled a hole in the container’s lid to easily feed the tube through). Otherwise, hang a container using the hook/spile method.
Step 4: Start to boil your sap down.
I typically process my sap 10 gallons at a time. 10 gallons of maple sap will make around 1 quart of syrup. I’ll boil the sap outside until it is about 1/2 to 1 gallon left.
The remainder I’ll boil inside over a stove top to better control and monitor temperature:
Step 5: Stop processing once syrup reaches 7°F over your boiling point. At sea-level where I live, the boiling point of water is 212°F. If you’re at a higher altitude you’ll want to measure with a thermometer what the temp is when the sap is boiling. At this step, just add 7°F to whatever that temp is.
Step 6: Filter syrup into a canning jar.
I like using a t-shirt or cheesecloth. Muslin or any other filtering material is fine. Once you place the lid on the canning jar it will self seal as it cools off
Step 7: Store away and enjoy!
When to Tap your Trees
As a general rule, once you have warmer day-time temperatures but still cooler nights, you’ll start to get good sap flow. The best flow comes when the temps reach below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Where I live in the Northeast that tends to be around late February early March through about April.
How Long Can I Tap My Trees
You can keep the tap on the trees until the buds start to form on the branches. Once the buds form, the sap will become “bitter” resulting in an inferior end product.
A Note on Syrup Grades
What do the various grades of syrup mean?
You’ve probably noticed the various grades of syrup you can buy from the store (ie Grade A or Grade B are the most common here in the U.S.). The grades are basically a judge of darkness and clarity. Grade A tends to be lighter colored and doesn’t have as strong a maple flavor whereas Grade Bs have a darker color and stronger taste.
How do you make different grades of syrup?
In reality, you really don’t have control over what grades of syrup you can make since it varies year to year. As a general rule though, the earlier in the season you make it, the lighter the syrup tends to be.
In my trees this year you can see different colors of syrup over just a couple weeks (the lighter, clearer color was made a bit earlier):