In this post we are going to talk about the actual process of tapping your maples tree(s). When I post Adventures in Making Maple Syrup: Part 4 we’ll wrap up the series with what you need to know to cook down your sap. After that, I will likely give a few updates on our 2017 sap season. I’d love to hear how your adventures with the 2017 sap season go as well!
By now you may have ordered your taps and marked the trees you plan to tap. Good start! Perhaps you have even done some calculations with the kids to estimate your syrup yeild. And your stash of milk jugs should be substantial by this time. If you are baffled by all of this, reference Adventures in Making Maple Syrup: Part 1 & Part 2.
Now we are just waiting for the end of winter’s deep freezes. We want weather that is consistently above freezing during the days and below freezing at night. This is when the sap will be surging up through the sap wood during the day and retreating back to the roots at night. When you look at the tree(s) you plan to tap think about tapping above large root masses and/or below large limbs. You’re more likely to capture better sap flow there. Also consider tapping the part of the tree which has southern exposure. Sap will flow better there as well due to more hours of direct sunlight exposure.
The tap should be placed at an angle to help gravity do its job and move the sap into your collection buckets (milk jugs). We used a drill bit slightly smaller then the tap and drilled into our trees about 1 1/2″. You may need to drill deeper if the tree has thick bark. If you’re drilling when the sap is running you will know when you’ve hit the sap wood. To ensure you don’t get carried away, it may be handy to mark the goal depth on your drill bit with a zip tie as you will see in our photos. Use a hammer to gently set your tap into the tap hole.
Once your sap is running you can collect your sap as needed to make sure your jugs are not over flowing or out of alignment with the tap. Sap should be stored in a cool place until it is cooked down. It may spoil if it is kept longer then a week so we make a habit of cooking down sap on Saturdays during sap season. Below you can see the food-safe plastic barrel we used for sap storage. One positive to storing the sap outdoors is the water in the sap will often freeze at night. The ice can be removed in the morning saving you time later when you are evaporating off the water from the sugar. We watched tons of YouTube videos on sap collection to form a method that worked well for us.
When the sap season is over, or you are done collecting sap, pull your taps and place small wooden plugs into the holes. Dowel rods work great; we’ve used small branches cut to size as well. This step is essentially like giving the tree a bandage to protect it from disease since we’ve broken it’s protective layer of bark.
Watch videos, read books, ask me question and be creative as you embrace the experience of backyard sugaring!