Small Batch Maple Syrup. Syrup Making for City Slickers.

I hope you have your sap buckets ready because today you’re going to learn how to make maple syrup at home with ONE single tree.  Yup. Even if you’re a city slicker.

 

If you could all just walk away from this post for a minute to grab your sap bucket, bonnet and lace up boots that’d be great.  I’ll wait here with the plough horses.  You don’t have a bonnet or lace up boots?  That’s O.K., because I don’t have a plough horse.

You probably also don’t have a forest of trees to create your own sugar bush for making maple syrup. But that’s O.K. because you only need ONE tree to make maple syrup.  Yep.  One. Maple. Tree.  That’s all I’ve been using to make maple syrup for the past 6 seasons. The single, big maple tree in my backyard.

 

The bigger the tree the more taps you can put on it for sap.  My tree is huge so I can hang 2-3 buckets off of it.  I debated about tapping my tree at all this year since the tree seems to be on its last legs, but that ended up being what prompted me to tap it.  (You should only tap healthy trees because tapping takes some of the trees energy away from it.)

I know this tree is weak and old and should probably be in a nursery home, but I WANT MORE SYRUP.  This Spring I’m having my tree looked at to decide whether it needs to be taken down.  I have a horrible feeling it will indeed have to be cut down, which means this could be my last opportunity to make maple syrup from it.  And I’m going for it.

 How Do You Make Maple Syrup at Home?

It’s easy really, and it make sense.  People who own sugar bushes are in the business of commercially producing maple syrup.  You’re not.  You just want enough for your family to pour the golden, sweet, elixir on French Toast throughout the year.  Maybe make some salad dressing or maple bourbon BBQ sauce.

So you don’t need a sugar bush.  You just need a sugar tree.  Yep. You can live in the suburbs and make maple syrup.

A single tree (a large one) will produce several bottles of maple syrup for you.  The exact amount depends on how good a year it is for sap runs.  The weather plays a large part.

You’ll get a nice amount of syrup if you have a tree large enough for 2 taps.

Now all you need to do is figure out if you have the right kind of maple tree for tapping (most will work!) and how many taps you can put on it based on the size.  That’s right.  You don’t need a Sugar Maple.  I don’t have one!  I have a Black Maple.

If you’re thinking about tapping your one or two trees ….

Go to the How to Tap a Maple Tree post to find out of you have the right kind of tree and how to tap it.

When’s the time to tap a maple tree?  Sap starts to run when night time temperatures are below freezing and daytime temperatures are above freezing.  Around here that usually means the end of February.  Once the weather gets too warm and the tree starts to go into bud you have to stop collecting sap because the syrup will be bitter.  Icky.  Grossy.  You generally have about 4 weeks to collect sap before the weather stops cooperating and your drilled sap hole starts to close up.

How long does it take?  I tap my tree and then once a week I boil whatever amount of sap that I’ve gathered down to syrup.  On the weekend I pour all of the buckets of sap I have into an evaporation pan and boil it down outside.  I use a propane burner and a shallow pan that gives the sap a lot of surface area which makes boiling it down a quicker process.

Can sap go bad?  You bet it can. That’s why I make syrup every weekend instead of saving up my sap and doing a big huge batch.  Sap can be left outside in the shade while it’s still cold out and it will be fine for about a week. After that you’ll see it will become cloudy and isn’t good to use anymore. Taste it. You’ll see.  Sap CAN come out of the tree cloudy especially nearer the end of the run. This sap is fine to use as long as you taste it and there’s no sign of bitterness.

IF YOU KNOW YOU WON’T HAVE A CHANCE TO BOIL YOUR SAP WITHIN A WEEK you can freeze it until you’re ready to use.

 

How much do you get?  In GENERAL each weekend I’ll get around 2-3 cups of syrup from this one tree.  I do this for 2 or 3 weekends in a row which means I get on average around 6-9 cups of syrup from my maple tree during any given year.

There has to be more to making syrup than boiling it down. That’s kind of true.  To make maple syrup you really are just boiling down sap and getting rid of all the water so you’re left with the sugar content.  Sap naturally has sugar in it but it’s so diluted from all the water you can’t taste it.  Boil away the water and you have sweet goodness.  But you DO need to know about when to stop boiling it and a few tools to help with this.

You’ll need things like some paper filters, a digital thermometer, and a hydrometer or refractometer.

This post covers everything you need to know about  How to Turn Sap into Syrup.

With those two posts I’ve recommended you’ll have all the information you need to make small batch maple syrup.  One tree is all you need.

If you have even one INKLING of interest in making your own maple syrup DO IT.  Do it right now before you forget about it and season has passed.  For the love of pancakes and french toast, do it!

Can’t be bothered to track all the stuff you need down?

THERE’S A MAPLE SYRUP STARTER KIT.
You can order an entire starter kit from Amazon that has 3 buckets, 3 lids, 3 spiles, a drill bit, filters and an instruction book for $104.  

Just add tree.

 

→Follow me on Instagram where I’m documenting this year’s Maple Syrup season in Instastories.←

 

How to make maple syrup.  Even if you're a city slicker.  Even if you only have ONE tree!

35 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    What are those red dots on the back of your ears on the second photo?

    You’re obviously totally gonna be making furniture with the tree once it’s down right?

  2. Martina says:

    Delicous? I think you were trying for delicious? In any case, I was in in Quebec one year and got to watch the trees getting tapped and then got to eat pancakes with real maple syrup…it was great!
    Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. Kath says:

    “It should probably be in a nursery home”
    Oh, my sides!!!

  4. TucsonPatty says:

    I want to pour some on the snow so I can have Maple Syrup Candy like Laura and Mary!! I’ve always wanted to do that, and probably never will, because that would mean A. Going somewhere where there is snow, or B. Going somewhere where there is snow. Not going to happen, if I can help it! Last time I went “home” to visit in the winter – baby sister’s 50th birthday – it snowed all but one day the week I was there! I hated it and they all laughed at me. That is why I live in Tucson and buy my maple syrup at the maple syrup store. (Safeway) I went back and re-read the old posts, just for fun, and still don’t want to live in the snow.

  5. Sabina says:

    I think I should do this just to do it. I think it would be a fun and interesting project…but I don’t like maple syrup (*gasp – I know) but I could be persuaded to make maple bourbon bbq sauce…I like bourbon 😁

  6. Carrie says:

    One of my favorite things EVER!!
    I first started tapping and making syrup as a teenager in the 80’s with family in the sugar shack! We would sell it at the county fair and its sold now in some stores as well as pancake mix. One of my fondest memories. If I close my eyes I can still smell that sweet smell and feel all the steam in the shack. They produced a lot!
    We always boiled in the wee hours and I thought I was so cool being able to be up so late. 🙂
    My husband and I made syrup the first three years after we built our home on our new property and my neighbor has his buckets out now. You can actually do this twice a year.
    So much fun. Thanks for the post Karen,and just so you know,I do own a bonnet!😁

  7. Would love to try this out, but I don’t have a maple tree in my backyard. Oh well, as I’m from Quebec, I’ll just stick with getting my syrup from my neighbor who actually own a sugar bush !

  8. Jamie Monzo says:

    Where did you get your heavy duty burner?

  9. melissa zapp says:

    I love that propane burner! What is the brand, and how many BTU will it put out?
    thanks!

  10. Tarra says:

    I have friends down the road who tap their trees and produce a curiously strong dark and delicious elixir. They advise that a teacup of sap from the evaporator with a slug of rum in it is a surefire spring tonic on a raw March night.

  11. Sarah says:

    This is fascinating! I had no idea you could do it with any maple trees, not just sugar maples. Can’t wait to get home to run around the yard checking for potential sources! 🙂

  12. Lynn says:

    Ah to have a Maple Tree that would be heaven. Stuck having to buy our maple syrup 🤭. Hope you get a thumbs up on your maple.

  13. Mary W says:

    What the heck is a sugar bush? I tried maple syrup (advertised as the real stuff) and it was so strong and overpowering, I really, really, didn’t like it. Maybe what I was given was from end of the run syrup? sugar bush? bad batch? or maybe I just don’t care for it. I do like cane syrup that has no bitter taste but really makes buckwheat pancakes taste like food for the king. So, what is the deal with maple syrup? Maybe I should try it once more from another ‘real’ syrup (usually that means more expensive). I hate cilantro so maybe maple syrup has similar qualities? Main question – what is a sugar bush? Is it a stevia plant? I had one once but TOOOOOO sweet!

    • Cath says:

      I may be wrong but there are a number of sugar bush(es) in my neck of the woods and that’s what we call a farm or conservation area where there are large stands of maples and the syrup is harvested there. So, for example, in about 10 days, the local school kids are on a weeks winter break and many families go out to a ‘sugar bush’ where there might be hikes or horse drawn rides out to the area where the sap is collected. You say you don’t care for maple syrup… I could gollup it down daily. There are different grades, from light to dark amber and they are used for varying purposes. PerhPs you had some of the very dark syrup which is indeed potent. BTW, I live in Karen’s neck of the woods but she hasn’t opened up her place as a local ‘sugar bush’… lol

      • Mary W says:

        Thanks for the info – I think mine was dark amber which I assumed would be more maple-y and it was like corn syrup verses black strap molasses. Maybe I will try some light grade and see if that was the problem. The taste even turned me off of maple filled dark chocolate which really surprised me. I will get some next time I shop as I want to experience the heaven that you all are describing and I can’t travel all the way up to Karen’s sugar bush. LOL

  14. Paula says:

    Aaargh! I went to the Amazon link and the starter kit is UNAVAILABLE. Just when I was considering actually doing this as we’ve got a huge Manitoba maple in our back yard and the weather has finally hit your recommended requirements. *sigh*

    Since I work full time and am a lazy bum otherwise, maybe you could just send me some of your syrup… 😉

  15. Jane Jacobsen says:

    Many years ago we lived in an old farm house with several big maples in the front yard. One spring I decided it would be instructive for the kids to make maple syrup. So I bought a couple of clean buckets to gather the sap and we drilled holes in the tree trunks and pounded short aluminum tubes in the holes. The buckets hung on the tubes to catch the sap. Twice a day we brought the sap inside and dumped it into my canner on the stove to boil it down. The process makes an enormous amount of steam and the humidity filled the house. I walked into the dining room to find the 100-year old wallpaper peeling off the walls in big panels 1/4 inch thick–including the new paper I had just put up. I had to open the doors periodically to let the humidity out. And the old oil burner in the dining room roared constantly to combat the frigid outside air.

    When the syrup was finished I bought a quart of whipping cream to whip up for butter and some fresh imported blueberries for the pancakes. They’re expensive, but what the hey, it was a learning experience. Dinner in the bare walled dining room was delicious and the kids learned where their food came from, but it was so rich and they are too much and everyone got sick at bedtime. Now I buy my syrup at the grocery.

  16. D. Louise says:

    Karen, the sap is pouring here in Vermont! I have made 1 1/2 quarts over the last 4 days from my 3 backyard taps — it’s crazy. And I’m boiling another 6 gallons down as I write this.

    But my boiling is all happening on my stove, so I am intrigued by your propane cooker. Tell me, do you use it for anything other than boiling sap? In the age of scaling back, decluttering, etc. (and by the way, I don’t think you ever told us where you came down on Marie Kondo and sparking joy through tidying up….inquiring minds want to know), I am reluctant to buy something that I only use once a year.

    Also, just curious: do you start your seeds indoors (yes, this is a complete change of subject, but it sort of tracks cause it’s about springtime activities….)? I would love to get a Karen B tutorial on your setup and process.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D. I really do just use the burner for the sap but I will use it on occasion for other things randomly. Like tomato sauce in the fall. I honestly just can’t go back to the sticky, steamy house again so it’s worth it for me. But I totally agree with the whole keeping things scaled back in terms of what you bring in the house. Marie Kondo. I decided I really liked her folding style and I do indeed look at everything I have and decide it it’s something I LOVE. If not, I either get rid of it or resolve to look at it again in a few months and reassess. I do indeed start all my plants from seed indoors and I have many, many posts on it. 🙂 This should get you started … https://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/?s=seed+starting I’ve also done a live seed starting online course to help people along but don’t think I’m going to have time to do it this year. ~ karen!

  17. Heather says:

    Love your sweater!

  18. Susan says:

    Fabulous post, Karen! Thank you!! This is the piece I was missing, as I was already aware that other trees besides sugar maples can be tapped (https://wildfoodism.com/2014/02/04/22-trees-that-can-be-tapped-for-sap-and-syrup/). Thank you again for the great pics and text – they are empowering!!

  19. Paula says:

    I love your sweater!!! Where did you find it?

  20. Susan Schneider says:

    Love your fashion sense- every single outfit is spot on. Especially loved the Maple Leaf/Canadian Flag sweater. Beautiful. Oh- great information on the maple syrup/tree tapping. I don’t know if we have a maple on our property or not, but I’m gonna find out!

  21. Sideroad40 says:

    Tapping about 60 maples today about 2 hrs north of you, thus a bit of a later start. Have been doing the weekend warrior thing for many years now with great family and friend gifts as a result. We end up with lots of ‘helpers’ in the form of company who come to lend a hand and hope for a fresh bottle by the weekend’s end. Nothing more Canadian….

  22. Amie says:

    We tapped the big maple in our front yard for 3 years now. Last year we got about 40 L of sap to make about 1 L of syrup. This year we have 80 L already from that one tree, and a couple of our neighbours let us tap their trees, too! I’ve been boiling it a little every day inside. We really need to get a propane burner for outside. The side burner on the bbq just isn’t strong enough 😉

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