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North Shore Permaculture Collaborative Message Board › Backyard maple sugaring

Backyard maple sugaring

A former member
Post #: 1
Hi everyone...I'm a new member, and am wondering if anyone in the group is into backyard maple sugaring. My husband and I tapped our two maple trees for the first time last year and had the best time creating a (tiny) batch of "Vine Street Amber." This year, we want to be more methodical and hope to get a higher yield. (Maybe this time we won't spill the sap!) I'd enjoy swapping notes, tips, etc. with anyone else who is interested in small-scale processing.
lee l.
user 13126023
Beverly, MA
Post #: 3
I have trees I'd love to tap but don't want to boil syrup inside the house -- sticky coating on ceiling, etc. Where did you boil it?
A former member
Post #: 2
Most of the boiling should be done outside; you bring it indoors (assuming you have a small enough quantity) and finish it off when there isn't much water left in the sap. We walked around for days smelling like bacon from all the smoke, but it was a fascinating and fun process...not to mention a great diversion during the last legs of winter when ordinarily I'd be sick of the snow and impatiently yearning for spring. Neighbors and kids came over to watch, and we took pix from start to finish. (I will post them on my blog later and add a link.) The device you use to provide the heat is called an "evaporator," and for back-yarders it's usually something basic made with stacked cement blocks and a grate. That's not what we used last year, and midway through the process our make-shift evaporator collapsed and we lost half our sap! shock This time around, we are being proactive and are going to try the cement block system. Although we relied on website info last year, we just bought a book called Backyard Sugarin' by Rick Mann, which is written with great wit and personality by a NH author, and deals exclusively with small-scale sugaring. If you have the right trees and a spirit of adventure, give it a shot. We ended up with only a half quart (due to the spill), but it was so delicious we wanted to cry.
Gloucester, MA
Post #: 29
I learned about maple tapping at a Mass Outdoorswoman event last March. I'm sure they will have another one his spring.­

Have to brush up on a few things, but tapping is pretty easy. Want to plan a backyard boil? I might be able to host.
A former member
Post #: 3
Just put up some pix on my website if anyone wants to check out our first-ever maple sugarin' experience.

Kate's Maple Pix
A former member
Post #: 172
Nice pics Kate! Were you able to boil down the sap in one day?
We have a large silver, rather than sugar maple that I'd like to tap. Ed has been dubious about
the adventure, but you have inspired me to try it this year.

Btw Mass Audubon in Topsfield has maple sugaring tours starting in February.
A former member
Post #: 4
No, it took several least two. Our sap had a lot of excess water in it because around the tail end of the month there were several days of torrential rain and our bucket lids weren't able to keep it out. Another thing that might have slowed us down a bit was the size of the pan we used for the sap. It was a tad too deep, and this didn't give us as much open surface area to encourage evaporation.

Our Backyard Sugarin' book says that the sugar content of sap varies in maples: approximately 3% for sugar maples, and 1/2 to 2/3 as much in other varieties. Technically this means it would take a lot longer to boil down sap from a silver (or other) maple. Also, the sap is supposedly less flavorful. But does this mean it isn't flavorful at all? The author doesn't use the word "nasty".smile Why not give it a shot anyway?
A former member
Post #: 175
The coop on Rt 1 in Topsfield has taps now. I just bought two metal ones- 4.95 each.
They also have plastic taps for less. And metal collection buckets with lids that were just too expensive for me to consider. But it was good to see how to set them up.
I'm going to use food grade plastic with a home-rigged lid.

From what I've been able to glean from the web, silver maple is considered a production tree in other states that don't have sugar maple. "The Joy of Cooking" even mentions a variety of maples and other trees to tap for syrup. (Love that cook book!)

I am resigned to the idea that my sap will have to cook longer. Let's have a taste testing to compare the different outcomes!

A former member
Post #: 5
Should we start a sap-run countdown? I'm starting to get nervous. The last couple of days have been warm, and the nights still freezing. I'm not ready! We need to get some cinder blocks for the evaporator we want to build, and dig out an area for it near the garage. (We think it will provide better shelter than our patio.)

By the way, we are not going to use metal buckets anymore. They are definitely expensive, and the lids don't keep out the rain. Our Backyard Maple Sugarin' book author recommends collecting gallon-size jugs (from milk, bottled water, cider, whatever). "The way you hang these is to cut a hole with a utility knife about 3/4" square just below the collar, and hang the bottle with the sap spout entering this hole, and the bottle set down over the back of the metal crest on the spout. Leave the cap on. The bottle will hang there nice as you please, even in a strong March breeze."

PS - We have some other maples in our yard and I'd love to tap them too. Not that I'm greedy or anything ... but may as well expand the production line if we're going to all this effort. smile
A former member
Post #: 178
I finally got through the snow to visit my tree on Wed. The buds are showing color
change and plumping a bit. Silver maple blooms very early, usually March. So I think it's time.

Thanks for the tip on the gallon jug collectors, Kate. Sounds easier than trying to
rig up a bucket. I have no idea how fast the sap might run and I'm not set up to cook it down either. Guess that will be this weekends project.

Btw I've been eying another tree across the meadow that's sort of in no-man's-land.
I might undertake a little guerrilla tapping.wink
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