Have a Maple Tree?
How to Tap a Maple Tree for Making Syrup!


Let me be serious for a moment.


1. That is the number of maple trees in my backyard.

360.  THAT is the conservative estimate of how many bags of maple leaves I’ve raked up and put out to the curb since I moved into this house 10 or so years ago.

886,762,254,981.    That’s the number of maple keys I’ve picked up, swept up or pulled out of my backyard.

3.  The number of toy poodles gone missing in the neighbourhood that I suspect were eaten by my tree.

42,567,897,432,156,789,$%6&@##$,234,5%6,981.  THAT is the exact number of times I’ve stood at the base of my maple tree swearing at it until a molar exploded out of my head.

My tree is a quiet but scary tree.  If my tree were a mythical creature and if Ninjas were mythical (as if), my tree would be a Ninja tree.

As it turns out, it’s just a  Black Maple.

So.  After more than 10 years of cleaning up after it, I think it’s just about time that leaf vomiting, key  spewing, dog eating tree did something for ME for once.

And it did.  That tree gave me maple syrup.  Who knew!  I thought only Sugar Maples could do that.

As it turns out, pretty much any maple tree can give you sap worthy of making maple syrup, but there are 4 Maple Trees that are your best bets based on the amount of sugar in their sap.  In order of preference:


Trees you can tap


Yes.  A birch tree.  All of these trees have enough sugar in their sap to make maple syrup.  The difference is the sugar maple and the black maple both have higher sugar content in their sap, so they take slightly less sap to make syrup.  They also produce useable sap longer each season than the others do.

If you don’t know which type of tree you have, but you know you have a maple, don’t even worry about it.  JUST TAP IT.

I’m not going to get into it much more than that, because today is just about what you need to tap a tree.  Later this week or early next week I’ll bring you a post on how to turn the sap you tapped into Maple Syrup.

But for now, if you have a maple tree or access to one, you only need a few things to tap your tree.

You need …

Tap 1

You can order these over the Internet, but it’s getting a bit late to do that for this year.

You can also get taps at farm stores, some hardware stores and sometimes sugar bushes in your area will have some for sale.

The hook is for hanging your bucket off of.  If you buy taps, DON’T forget to get the hooks too.

Tap 2


Sap buckets are usually made of plastic now.  I couldn’t bring myself to use plastic, so I found myself some older aluminum ones off of Kijiji. (2 for $10)    I … I … just couldn’t use plastic.  Plastic doesn’t seem very pioneerey.

I suspect when I die and they cut me open, they will find a tumour in the shape of Laura Ingalls hanging off of my heart.



Also pick up some bucket covers.  (available at the same places you get your taps)  The cover keeps bugs, twigs and rain out of your sap.



You need a drill to drill a hole in your tree, as well as a drill bit.



You want to drill into your tree between 2 and 3 inches, so mark your drill at 2″ if you have a smaller tree, 2 1/2 – 3″ for larger ones.  You can use a piece of tape to mark it or mark it with a Sharpie.

mark bit


Drill your hole on a slightly upward angle.

Do NOT drill a tree that is less than 10″ across. It’s too young and tapping it could kill it.

If your tree is 10 – 20″ – 1 tap

If your tree is 20 – 27″ – 2 taps

If your tree is 27+ (and healthy) – 3 taps

drill hole


Choose a day that it’s above freezing to drill your hole.

Sap will come out of the  hole immediately.

Clear away the shavings from drilling with a small twig so your hole is clean.



Gently hammer your tap in.  You don’t want to hammer it in so hard it splits the bark.  For one thing, you’ll lose sap out of the split and for another you’ll never be able to get the tap out.

If it’s above freezing, the second you put your tap in it will start dripping.  And unless you the shrivelled  heart of a rainbow hater, your eyes will drip too.

It’s a sappy miracle.



Immediately hang your bucket.  I washed my old buckets with hot water and soap, sprayed them with a bleach and water mixture, let them stand … and then washed them again.

hang bucket

attach lid


The sap will drip out right away.  The rate at which it drips will depend on the weather conditions that day.

On my first day all 3 buckets were 1/2 – 3/4s full within 12 hours.

Today, on the other hand, I only got a few inches in each bucket.

It takes 40 parts of sap to make 1 part of syrup.

dripping in bucket



I’m going to give you a few days to get your supplies.  You still have time to tap your trees.  I waited for over 10 years to do this and the second I inserted that tap and sweet sap started running out I could have punched myself in the throat for not having done it sooner.

Later this week  or early next week I’ll give you all the information you need to turn the sap into maple syrup.  So for now, get out and get your tapping supplies.

If you happen to get a head start and start tapping, think of your sap as milk.  Not water.  Even though it is crystal clear like water.  It is perishable and needs to be kept cold.  If it’s cold enough outside where you are (32 Fahrenheit or colder) you can probably leave your buckets outside in the shade.  Otherwise, pour all of your sap into a large stock pot and keep it in the fridge.  The sooner you boil it the better, but you can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days or so if you have to.  Like any food product, though … the fresher the better.

7,453.  The number of minutes I spent attempting to come up with a clever closing line for this post.

0.  The amount of clever lines I ended up coming up with.


Now that you know how to tap a maple tree,  LEARN HOW TO TURN THAT SAP INTO SYRUP!


  1. Marti says:

    This is very cool! VERY COOL! Wow, Karen, I’m blown away!

    Um, any chance you will give a small jar of your future homemade maple syrup to the person who votes the most times? Er, not that that is “legal” or anything. But, if that should somehow happen?

  2. Rebecca says:

    “32 Fahrenheit?” Karen, you’re making maple f’n syrup, and you give the temperature in Fahrenheit? What kind of Canadian are you?
    My neighbour taps his beech tree. His wife says the syrup has no flavour, but he still does it every year. I alas, have only a spindly cedar and an apple tree that produces strange apples the size of tiny cherries.

  3. Leena says:

    Want to just mention that you don’t need any special equipment for this. Just a bucket or a bottle and a rubber tube (approved for food). Here are a few pics http://www.arktisetaromit.fi/nettilehti/artikkeli.php?aid=74&lid=10
    I know it’s in Finnish, but just check the pics.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Leena – I know. I meant to mention this in the post and *completely* forgot. For the cost though (very inexpensive) I like the look of all the equipment. The metal spile and buckets etc. It looks good. ~ karen!

      • Leena says:

        totally get it, the metal bucket and the spile looks way better than the plastic variation. I just don’t think stores sell those metallic ones here, maybe it’s only a Canadian thing…

  4. lori says:

    i live in Tennessee wonder if i can find a big enough maple tree here to tap into. !???
    might just have to go tree hunting.

  5. Rebecca says:

    So awesome. I thought it was only sugar maples. I’m going to find the supplies and I may or may not tell my father in law what I am up to with his huge maple. If he finds out, well I’ll make him some pancakes.

  6. Maggie Cooper says:

    There aren’t many things better than freshly made maple syrup, unless it’s the blueberry pancakes to put the syrup on. I live in Texas and we don’t have maple trees. Growing up on a farm in north central Pennsylvania, we had bunches of beautiful maples that we tapped every year. Love the smell of maple syrup boiling on the stove. Enjoy your tree!

  7. Err, Karen, could you BE any more Canadian?

    Can’t wait to see how you turn the water into wine. (Oh, tell me that’s really next weeks project?)

  8. Brenda says:

    Oh I love this !! Pray for snapping cold nights and sunny days..the sap runs the best. Your own maple syrup…how cool.

  9. Laura Bee says:

    May have to do this to my own swearing tree. Been years since I’ve tapped!

  10. Rebecca says:

    This is so cool! You are very worthy of winning best diy blog!

  11. Kerri says:

    Impressive! I really reeeally hope my neighbors don’t catch me tapping their tree.

  12. magali says:

    why are you speaking in fahrenheit?! What’s next, you’ll be writing colour as color?!

    I wish it times a million that I had a maple tree in my tiny Montreal backyard. I think that when I buy a house, one of my criteria will be for for the backyard to have a maple tree.

  13. I gotta say, those buckets looked so gorgeous hanging on the tree, I was thinking….thinking….how about hanging potting buckets in the spring with succulents and ivy, and puuurty spring flowers? (when the maple season is over) It would cheer up a tree. And me. I am doing it.
    Love your maple buckets. Good choice. Plastic is icccky, oh pioneer woman.
    Lynne xx

  14. Mary Werner says:

    Loved the pic of the drop of goodness falling into your pail and love your posts. In Florida we have to cut our palm trees to get to the heart and cook it like cabbage (hence the name cabbage palm) to get a great treat – but it tastes like cabbage not syrup, go figure. I voted both times!

  15. Lynn says:

    I live much too far South to have this opportunity in my own yard – I am SOOO jealous! I have dreamed of having my own little camp and sugar shack tucked
    away in the woods…tending the fires and smelling it cook. Romantic visions of a Renaissance Woman indeed! This may be my favorite thing I’ve seen you do! Who cares about watching other crap when you can watch a girl tap her own maple tree?!

  16. Maria says:

    Nice post Karen and great photos 🙂
    We are very busy this time of year tapping over 2000 trees in our bush in NH. Not running yet but will soon! I have a little tip for you that I think you will like- to ensure that you don’t drill too far into your tree ( it can be hard to see that little line) slip a piece of rigid tubing over your bit cut to length. When it hits the tree you know you’ve gone the distance! Happy boiling!

    • Karen says:

      Maria – 2000 trees! Good lord! Feel free to offer any tips or advice. Comment, email me, scream as loud as you can … whatever. ~ karen!

  17. calliek says:

    We tap maple trees and make syrup in Toronto with Not Far From the Tree (read about our adventures http://backyardfarmsto.blogspot.com/2010/03/for-last-tw-o-weeks-ive-been-totally.html ) and I can add this tips:

    You can tap Norway Maples too- the ratio of sap to syrup is much higher tho because the sugar content is low- you’ll need approx 65 litres of sap to make 1 of syrup (sugar maples only require 35 l, black is about 40, red and silver slightly higher)

    You can get these amazing kits! http://www.maplekits.com/
    They are designed to use with 2 litre pop bottles which are the perfect collection system. When one bottle is full of sap you just switch it for a new one! No buckets, no lids!

  18. Val says:

    Wow, that’s so cool! Funny post too, you know you’re good when you get ME to smile at 8am! The “I’d Tap That” pic really got me, haha! Happy tapping!

  19. Barbie says:

    I gotta find me a maple tree to sap now! I just HAVE to! Thanks Karen….I will now be obsessed with finding me a damn maple tree! LOL

  20. Sadly, this is not possible in Florida, but I am nonetheless impressed. I have voted and will be here with fingers crossed until Friday. You GO girl!

  21. Ashley says:

    Blerg! I just posted the EXACT SAME POST THIS MORNING!

  22. I knew you could do this but I really didn’t have a clue how…so thank you for sharing….

  23. marilyn says:

    that is pretty cool, i think maple syrup and sugar bushes and tapping trees is sooo canadian, i mean i know they have it in the usa but really we probably invented it..i’m sure we did. idnt every canadian kid go to the sugar bush during march break…or on a class trip in march..unless you were one of the rich kids and went to florida..too bad for you. anyway people..VOTE VOTE!!! karen needs us dont let her down..she doesnt let us down.

  24. Amie says:

    YES! YOU ARE ME! Or, you have my maple tree, except that mine is a Norway maple, which I am informed is considered an invasive species around here (meaning, New England). And based on the zillions of blasted saplings we (I) yank out of the gardens each year, I am inclined to agree.

    All of which is to say – I tapped a maple tree this week and made maple syrup yesterday! (ok, my husband did most of the standing around cooking the sap while I entertained his parents). I am beyond excited and wanted snow to pour it onto so I, too, could be Laura Ingalls Wilder. Instead, I will settle for about a cup of slightly overboiled, delicious, amazing, luscious maple syrup. Made from our one tree in our little city yard. Even in a weirdly warm winter.

    Now, to convince my husband that in the next few years, we should get some chickens…They are even allowed now!

  25. Maria says:

    So cool, I can’t wait to one day have a tree of my own to tap! I absolutely love this kind of stuff!

  26. Pat says:

    Don’t wanna sound too “sappy” but I sure hope you win that “homie” cuz you provide us all with incredible information that gives the rest of the world an idea of what it means to be Canadian. Gosh, now that sounds “syruppy”!!! And that’s not “sugar” coated….it’s for real…..we all love your posts.

  27. Jake says:

    This sure sounds like “sucking” to me. Good luck in the voting, doing better this morning. Oh yes, great post.

  28. J9 says:

    Balls, you can only vote once in the finals!?

    In other news, since you’re about to find yourself in an abundance of maple syrup, have you seen this?: http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo-ear/RecipeController?language=EN&recipeType=1&action=recipe&recipeID=3380

  29. Anna says:

    I voted.

    And I want a puppy.

  30. Diane says:

    Great post…unlucky for me as I don’t have a tree to sap. However, I did vote for ya last night. 😀

  31. Gayla T says:

    Tell all these light weights they can have several yahoo addresses thus being able to vote more than once. If they really love you…….LoL. Not many Maples live in KS but you can make molasses from a annual crop called sorgum that looks like short corn with no ears. You will need a mule so when you get to that chapter in your Laura saga I know a guy who has some. The mule walks around in a circle tied to this crusher thing that mashes the sweet juice out of the cane. Then you cook it down and it makes black strap. Nasty stuff! I know you are going to do the old time slow boil method but next year when the novelty has worn off, put it in a roaster and bake it in the oven. Easy to burn it on the top, almost impossible in the oven. I have a friend who does have a rare Maple in KS and she found this much easier after ruining a huge batch her first year. Read “Oh, Pioneer” by Willa Cather. It’s grown up Little House on the Prarie which by the way is located at Mankato, KS. When you come to visit me next summer that’s one of the places I’ll take you.

  32. Alicia Herron says:

    Karen, glad you stuck in the fight with this ole black maple and you didn’t TAP OUT! 🙂 Yeah…. it’s bad!

  33. Alicia Herron says:

    oh.. and I voted for you and absolutely put up the ‘ I’d tap that’ on pinterest’. Stink you can only vote once.

  34. Theresa says:

    I’ve been out of the loop for a bit – but what a cool way to get up to speed – I am going out now measuring tape in hand to see about tapping the three maples in my yard- even if I end up with a cup’o syrup it’ll be worth it!
    Karen theres alot worse things then channeling Laura Ingalls!

  35. Vere says:

    I jsut voted for you! I really like your site and I enjoy your sense of humor, greetings from Sicily!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you so much Vere! Sicily!!! I’d love to go and cook there! I’m been on a quest for perfect Italian recipes my whole life. ~ karen!

      • Vere says:

        You are welcome to come here anytime! we live at 200 mts of the tirrenian sea, ahh there is no such thing as an Italian dish, all the italians keep telling me they only have regional food, Sicilian, Tuscan, Roman, etc, all of it delicious btw 🙂

  36. Brenda j says:

    Very cool and why not!

  37. trinity says:

    yay!!! we’e winning!!!!

  38. Jane says:

    “I suspect when I die and they cut me open, they will find a tumour in the shape of Laura Ingalls hanging off of my heart.”

    I love you.

  39. Elle says:

    That’s it. I’m TOTALLY emigrating to Canada!
    Who needs warm sunny winters? I want to make my own maple syrup!!!

    Elle, who lives in a maple-less country
    (We get commercially made Canadian maple syrup. 9us$ for a 236ml/8 fl oz bottle).

  40. Lucy says:

    I don’t have a maple, but I do have a bay leaf tree. Maybe I’ll tap that and see if I can get some sap to use for making infused olive oil concoctions. Talk about your messy trees! This one drops its seeds that are as big as marbles. Sorry, guys, but my niece likes to go out and “step on the balls” as they dry. Many of them sprout and they are tenacious at developing deep roots quickly. When I trim the tree, I put the branches out in the driveway with a sign that says they are free for the taking, make sure you wash them and lay them out to dry, and use about 1/4-1/3 of what you’d usually use in a recipe. They never last long since they’re expensive to buy in stores. Raking up the fallen leaves in the Fall is a surefire way to clean out your sinuses.

    The “I’d tap that” photo is worthy of its own award. I can see it as a poster for all you Canadians and NE area Americans.

  41. Michelle says:

    I have a white river birch tree. Can I tap that? (As in get syrup from it, I mean.)

  42. kari says:

    I think your post title should have been “I’d tap that!”

  43. kari says:

    OMG – I see now that one of your pix had that title…maybe I read it on a subliminal level.

  44. Chancy says:

    You should have saved the “I’d tap that.” photo for the closer. Classic!

  45. Leslie says:

    Great post and amazing pics Karen! Think you should run a weekly post titled “I’d Tap That” – think of the possibilities……

  46. Nicole2 says:

    OMG, my grandfather used to have a maple syrup making shed. I HAVE to do this. Have to. It’s part of my heritage. And free maple syrup to boot. That stuff is so expensive. Yay!! Thank you Karen!

  47. Annie says:

    Is there etiquette I should be aware of before tapping in a neighbors yard?

    Have always wanted to do this. Thanks.

  48. Keith says:

    I used to tap trees and make maple syrup, lots of fun with plenty of hard work. I hope you have warm days and cold nights for good runs. What species of maple tree is it? I can’t tell from the picture. Hopefully, its Acer saccharum (sugar maple), if not you’ll need even more sap. You’ll need many liters of sap to make just a liter of syrup, but I’m sure you’re ready for the challenge. Make sure you have plenty of time to boil and boil and boil away a lot of water. Don’t do it in your kitchen – it will become very humid!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Keith – It’s a Black Maple. Which is as good as you can get w/out being a Sugar. And trust me … I know alllll about how many buckets of sap it takes to make one tiny bottle of syrup, LOL. I don’t find it hard work … just lengthy. And of course, determining exactly when it’s *syrup* even with a hydrometer is tough. ~ k!

  49. julie s says:

    So you don’t need a sugar shack to make maple syrup? I can’t help but feel a bit misled by my elementary school (winter field trip!) education.

    Of course, part of the directions you’ll be providing in your next post on the topic could include a set of plans to build your very own sugar shack. In which case, consider me officially un-misled.

    Now will your sugar shack be an addition to the coop or will it be an entirely separate building?

  50. Theresa says:

    Well I don’t know why this has captured my imaginastion but it has- just finished ordering the taps etc. – My kids think I’m nuts my sister ( god love her!) is as excited as I am. Hubby has long since stopped trying to figure me out – he just ssay sure go on ….

    • Karen says:

      Excellent! My niece (who also thinks I’m nuts with my chickens and excitement over seed potatoes, etc.) says the Maple Syrup thing sparked a little something in her too. I’ve already made a few bottles and plan on spending the rest of the weekend getting it figured out to make it as easy on all of you trying it for the first time as possible. Full post on boiling it down on Wednesday or Thursday! ~ karen!

  51. Slackerjo says:

    My dad was a chemist by trade so he loved sitting in the sugar shack, reading, monitoring the boiling of sap. Make sure you have a good thermometer as towards the end process from sap to syrup happens very fast. He would also filter the final product through coffee filters to get all the bits of bark out of the final product.

  52. Bunny says:

    Love your blog, new subscriber. I always wanted to try this! Now I will….but not this year, just put a bid in on a house, waiting for our answer! Next year I hope, lots of trees sure to be maples!

  53. Well, that looks fun! All I have are palm trees and Aunt Jemimah. Boo.

  54. mary dobranetski says:

    My husband and I did this years ago but we had purchased “bags” made especially for this. We did fairly well, however, I highly recommend having a sugar shack to boil the sap down to syrup. We had a heck of a time keeping the temperature constant but what we were able to yield was pretty good. It sure beats that fake stuff they sell in the super market. I might do this again if I had a good place to cook the sap. Thanks for the story! Many people don’t even know that they have this liquid gold on their property.

  55. Noelle says:

    Thanks for showing us how easy this is! I must do this, duh, I have 3 sugar maples! I hope to find all the supplies tomorrow. Hurry up with the second post!

  56. Jeremiah says:

    their is only a slight problem about your ability to swear over 42 decillion because it would take you well over 85 MILLION years to count that high and I you had enough time to make this well layed out website my guess is that you have not dedicated your life to swearing at those maple trees in your back yard.

  57. susan says:

    I tapped my first tree this afternoon! It WAS a “sappy” moment! It was so cool! Can’t wait to boil it down and see what it tastes like! Here’s a question…. Can you boil the sap for a minute, filter re boil and then put it in a canning jar? I’ve read that the sap is full of nutrients and antioxidates. Was wondering if it would keep. Any ideas? I know you can freeze the sap but didn’t know if you could can it.

  58. Mary W says:

    I have a river birch – is that the same thing? I’ll call the extension agent next Monday to verify that I can use it for syrup. The birch tree is only 5 inches across and about 10 years old. Too soon? How do you keep out ants? They climb in everything and especially the poor hummingbird feeder. Maybe I should stick to honey. Have you ever tried bees? Just bought a fresh crop of cane syrup – it is so good on hearty pancakes but a little too strong for fluffy, bleached wheat. In this area there are MANY turpentine stills due to all the old pines.

    • Karen says:

      Mmmm. Too small I’m afraid. The sap isn’t sweet. You can’t even taste sweetness in it until it’s at around 4 % sugar content so ants aren’t a problem. 🙂 ~ karen!

  59. Jerry says:

    Maple trees best way to ID them are RED maple 3 points on the leaves as in red
    Sugar maple has 5 points on it leaves as in sugar .

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