You Are At: AllSands Home > Food > Howto > How to make maple syrup
Collecting sap from the maple began when Native Americans of the Northwest began cutting slashes in maple bark to collect sap. This would be boiled down in a hollowed out cooking log. Settlers to the new world learned this skill from the indians. They improved the system by using drill bits and copper buckets to turn the sap into sugar and syrup.
It would make sense that larger maple trees provide more sap. But this is not always true. When preparing to tap a maple make sure it has a large trunk diameter with numerous limbs at the crown area. Tapping a maple tree under 10 inches in diameter could injure the tree and yields very little sap. The best time to tap is in the late winter or early spring before buds open. This is when the sugar content is highest and the cold will inhibit bacterial action.
Although the south side of the tree is the best place to drill holes, they can be drilled on any side. Drill only to the sapwood so you won't damage the tree and no more than 2 to 3 holes. For this you will need a drill, bit and brace. Drill in a slight upward angle. The diameter of the hole should be smaller than the spout or spile being inserted. Spiles are tapered to fit the tap can usually be purchased at local garden stores and provide a place to hang your bucket. With a spout you may need to hammer a nail into the tree to hold a bucket. If working with a large tree, 2 foot in diameter to larger, it is safe to tap in 3 or more spots. Smaller trees should tapped in no more than two places. Immediately after drilling the hole, insert the spout by gently tapping it. Be careful not to split the bark which could damage the tree or create a leaky tap.
Sap should be collected in covered containers. Gallon plastic milk containers, which do not need covering because of their narrow neck, plastic bags or galvanized buckets will work. Sap can be store outside as long as the weather is cold. When the temperature begins to warm, remove spiles and allow your tree to heal. This is also a sign that it is time to process your sap.