How to Easily Tap Maple Trees for Splendid Natural Syrup –
If you’ve ever experienced the sticker shock of shopping for real maple syrup, you will likely understand why someone might want to tap maple trees to make their own real maple syrup. Fortunately, you can easily tap your own maple trees with very minimal investment in equipment.
Many people have never actually tasted real maple syrup. Some believe that bottle of pancake syrup in their cabinet is maple syrup, but that stuff is really just regular corn syrup with artificial coloring and artificial flavoring. If you’ve never tasted real maple syrup, you likely think that fake syrup tastes just fine on your pancakes.
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You have to try real maple syrup! It has very little similarity to that bottle of corn syrup posing as maple syrup. It just tastes cleaner and more like vanilla and caramel. Also while corn syrup has many notable health risks, real maple syrup is believed to have health benefits. God just has a way of making a superior product to man.
Potential Health Benefits of Real Maple Syrup
** I am not a doctor. You should not ever take my word for it on any health claims. Do your own research, and consult your own medical providers.
You can read more about the health benefits of real maple syrup in Dr. Axe’s article 9 Surprising Benefits of Maple Syrup Nutrition + Recipes. According to Dr. Axe, when a team of researchers combined maple syrup extract with certain antibiotics, they were able to get the same microbial effect while using 90% less of the antibiotic. Isn’t that amazing? That could have some serious implications for the prevention of further superbugs, but it will likely never be studied enough to be approved for medical use.
There are several other potential health benefits of maple syrup mentioned in that article. That one was just the most surprising to me, so I thought I would mention it. Are you ready to switch your table syrup for the real stuff yet?
Why We Started Tapping Our Maple Trees
When I set out to tap our maple trees, I was only vaguely interested in the health benefits. Those were just an added bonus. I was originally using it as a learning project while homeschooling and preparing my children for their future with practical life skills.
I thought we should learn to tap our own maple trees to make syrup just in case anything ever happens to the food supply grid. I want my family to know how to obtain their own food if they ever need to be self-sustaining for whatever reason. It’s a bit disturbing to me to think that many of the skills are grandparents and great-grandparents knew and practiced on a regular basis have now been forgotten by the majority of the population. What happens if we need those skills again?
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This is why, at The House That Never Slumbers, we make our kids hunt, butcher, take care of chickens, grow produce, tap maple trees, and so on. There were several events that led me to this mindset, but that would be an entire post of its own.
We have access to several maple trees if we need them, but for the sake of learning how to tap maple trees which was my goal, I’ve only used the handful of large maples in front of my parents’ house. When I first started researching the process of tapping maple trees and collecting the sap, I began by trying to find used equipment for sale online. Used tapping and sugaring equipment is not cheap.
What You Need to Tap Maple Trees
I initially thought the project would not be feasible because buying all the metal taps, metal buckets, hooks, and so on would have been a small fortune. Fortunately, used equipment is not the only option. There are many sellers online offering simple plastic taps attached to food grade tubing that can be used with whatever food grade containers you prefer for collecting. The good news is they work great!
Seriously, you would not believe how easy it is to install these taps. You will need a cordless drill which I’m guessing most people already have. If you don’t own one, you could possibly borrow one from a neighbor because drilling the taps will only take a few minutes.
You’ll also need a 5/16″ drill bit for drilling into the trees. Don’t worry, drill bits are fairly cheap.
If you are using milk jugs to collect your sap, you will also need another drill bit to put a hole in the milk jug lids. This drill bit needs to be slightly smaller than your tubing. My tubing was 1/2″, so I used a 3/8″ drill bit. You want the tubing to fit very snuggly in the hole you drill, so it will stay in place.
Although I have a set of 10-15 taps, I only run five taps because that gives me almost more sap than I can keep up with boiling. You will need twice as many collection containers as the number of taps. I saved and cleaned ten milk jugs for collecting sap. This gives me the ability to just swap out the full milk jug with an empty one.
The entire process works much better if all the lids fit on all the jugs. We have jugs from both Aldi and Walmart, but luckily the lids are interchangeable. It only took me about two weeks to save ten empty milk jugs here. You’ll need to start saving earlier or ask relatives and neighbors to save theirs if you don’t consume a lot of milk.
You could also use some other form of container. I’ve seen others online using 2-liter pop bottles, but having the handle on the milk jug makes it so much easier to carry the full jugs of sap. The milk jugs also have a wider base that makes them less likely to tip. You could use food grade 5-gallon buckets if you have a source for those.
When and Where to Install Maple Tree Taps
You need to install your taps when you get to that point at the end of winter when nights are consistently falling below freezing, but daytime temperatures are getting above freezing. These are the days sap will flow.
The taps need to be installed on the south side of maple trees that are more than a foot in diameter. A tree that is more than 20 inches in diameter can support two taps. All taps should be on the south side where the sun hits the longest each day. The sap will flow faster on sunny days than on cloudy days.
Drilling the Milk Jug Lids
First, you should wash both your drill bits with dish soap and warm water. It’s hard telling what our drill bits have been used for here, so I washed them really well. I started by drilling a hole in JUST FIVE of the milk jug lids with my 3/8″ drill bit.
You’ll want to use just one jug while drilling these lids. Drill one lid. Then switch to another lid on that same jug and drill again. You don’t want to drill into multiple jugs because you’ll have to wash out all the little plastic shavings. It’s better to just wash one jug again from the drilling. Only drill holes in five of your lids because you will need the other lids still intact for carrying the collected sap back to the house.
Once you have five milk jugs with drilled lids on top, you will need to carry those out with you to drill your taps.
Installing the Taps in the Maple Trees
Don’t forget to switch to your 7/16″ drill bit! I forgot and had to walk clear back to my house to switch it. You need to drill your taps into the south side of the tree where the sun will hit.
This was a hole left from the last time I tapped these maples about four years ago.
Make sure the tubing is secure on each tap. Sit a milk jug on the ground, and then hold the tap about where you think you want to drill to see if the tubing will reach the jug. If you are satisfied with that location, drill a hole about one inch deep into the tree on the SOUTH SIDE OF THE TREE. Work the tap into the hole. You can hit it lightly with a hammer, but be careful not to break the plastic. I didn’t use a hammer this time. I just pushed with my palm. They were all secure enough.
Thead the tubing through the hole on top of the milk jug. It was very windy the day I installed these, so the wind was blowing the jugs around a little bit, but that’s fine. They won’t blow away as long as you made sure the hole in the lid was small enough to keep the tubing firmly in place. Once sap starts filling the jug, the jug will settle on the ground correctly.
The sap flows faster on some days than others. On a day that only gets slightly above freezing, you will not collect as much sap. On an overcast day, you may only get a few inches of sap even if the overall temperature isn’t that bad. On a day that gets to the mid-forties with the sun shining brightly on the trees, each tap will give a gallon or more.
When a gallon is full, you simply take one of your extra empty milk jugs, and swap it with the full one. You secure the new empty jug to the lid that’s dangling from the tubing, and place the other lid on the full jug of sap. It’s a very simple process.
I start boiling when I have collected five gallons of sap. If you are collecting the sap alone, it helps to have a small wagon to carry the full jugs. I usually just make one of the kids come with me to carry a couple of the jugs though.
It wasn’t really warm enough for my daughter to be out in shorts to collect the sap. People in Indiana just pretty much lose their minds if it gets into the 40’s and sunny in early March. They break out their shorts and start wearing socks and sandals and things like that.
Stay tuned for How to Boil Sap into Maple Syrup without Any Special Equipment.
Have you tried real maple syrup? What do you think? What about other syrups from tree sap? How do they compare? Let us know in the comments.
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