A Look Into Tapping Trees for Sap

A Look Into Tapping Trees for Sap

Have you ever been interested in the process and inner workings of tapping trees for syrup? We are going to be taking a look at what it entails and how it is done.

Whether you are wanting to partake in the activity yourself, or you simply want to learn more, this is the guide for you! First let’s start off by talking about what kinds of trees you can tap.

What Trees are Able to be Tapped?

There are actually quite a few different trees that are able to be tapped.

Typically, you will see people tapping sugar maples , but silver maples , Norway maples , and birch trees can actually make some fantastic syrup as well.

If you are looking on your own property for the perfect tree to tap, make sure you know a little something about tree identification (or have someone with you who does). You can also visit a local nature center for assistance by bringing them a branch to identify, or you can look online or find a book to assist you.

Now let’s discuss what materials you will need for tapping your tree once you have decided on one.

What Supplies Will You Need?

If you are planning on tapping your trees, you will need a few different materials:

– a hammer

– a drill (brace) with either a 3/8 or 7/16 drill bit

– a large boiling pan

– containers to collect the syrup in (buckets, coffee cans, etc)

– a candy thermometer

– a large boiling pan

– cheesecloth filter material

– either tapping spouts or spiles: if you want to make your own spiles, you just need a 1/2 wooden dowel cut to 3” lengths. Then you will want to drill small holes down the center of each dowel and taper one end so the spile will fit into the tree tap hole. You should also make a notch on the top of the wide end to support the sap collection container.

Once you have collected all these items, you are ready to get started.

The Process of Tapping Trees for Syrup

First, you will want to drill a hole in a tree about 2 to 4 feet above the ground. When drilling, you should make sure that the hole has a slight upward angle and is about 3 inches deep.

Once you have the hole drilled, use your hammer to lightly tape the spile into it. Make sure that you don’t hammer the spile too far into the hole, as you could cause it to split and loose some of the sap.

Now you can hang a container for the syrup from the spile. It is definitely recommended that you use one with a cover to keep out any debris, rain, or snow. You should empty them once a day and make sure to either store the sap immediately, or have a cool place in mind to store the syrup out of direct sunlight.

Before you start the evaporating process, it is recommended that you have gathered at least ten gallons of sap first.

You also don’t want to make sure you don’t tap the tree too many times, as it could damage the tree. If your tree is less than 10 inches in diameter, it shouldn’t be tapped at all. For trees between 10” to 14”: 1 tap is acceptable, 2 for trees 15” to 19”, 3 for trees 20” to 24”, and trees larger than 25” can be tapped 4 times.

How to Turn Your Sap Into Syrup

To actually turn the sap into delicious syrup, the process is fairly simple. It basically consists of a lot of boiling and evaporating.

Because there is going to be so much steam from the water cooking off of the sap, it is recommended that you boil your sap outside over a wood-burning stove. Simply pour your sap into a large cooking pan, and as more water boils off, you can add more sap.

Make sure that you only add small amounts of the sap at a time however, this way you don’t kill the boil and slow down the process. Use the candy thermometer to monitor the temperature regularly.

As the sugar in the sap becomes more concentrated, the temperature will rise. You will know when the final stages of boiling are occuring when the sap gets darker and the bubbles become smaller. At this point you can move the sap into a smaller pan and finish boiling it inside. Once the temperature reaches 219 degrees, you have your syrup!

To finish off the entire process, strain the hot syrup through the cheesecloth, then pour into your storage jars and refrigerate them

What Time of Year is Best for Tapping Your Trees?

So what time of the year should you be attempting this task?

You will want alternating thaw and freeze temperatures, as they are ideal for creating the pressure that causes the sap to flow when the tree is tapped. The sap will run best when the night temperatures are below freezing, and during the day it’s warming up to about 40 degrees.

Typically, depending on the area you live, early spring is a great time of year for this activity. However, once the trees start budding, the season for this task is over.

We hope you found our guide to tapping trees for syrup to be helpful! This is definitely a fun task to try out during the winter season, and you may just come out of it with some delicious syrup as well.


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