How to tap your own maple trees and make your own maple syrup

NOW: How to tap your own maple trees and make your own maple syrup

SAUKVILLE, Wis. (CBS 58) --- You don't need a sugarbush, a sugarbush house or a complicated cook process to make your own maple syrup in Wisconsin. You just need a maple tree, a drill, a spile and something to catch the sap in.

"To tap a tree means to tap a little hole into it. Or poke a little hole through the bark into what we call the sapwood." said Cassie Bauer, program manager at Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville which acts as a production sugarbush during sugaring season.

"We tap over 400 trees and we make the sap into syrup.” she said.

Bauer says you can tap any species of maple tree. Sugar maples have the highest sugar content but all maples should have sap flowing this time of year. To get the most sap, the nights need to be freezing cold and days need to be warm and sunny. That puts sugaring season from the end of February to early April.

How to:

  • Find a tree that's big/old enough. It should be about 40 years or older. If a child can wrap their arms around the trunk and touch their hands it is probably too young.
  • Use a 5/16ths bit to drill a hole about 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches deep in the tree in order to reach the sapwood. Be careful not to drill too deep.
  • Hammer a spile (spout) into the hole. Riveredger sells kits with spiles but you could also snap off some sumac and hollow out the branch to make your own spile.
  • Hang a bag or bucket on the spile and let it fill up with sap. (You need about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup).
  • Once you've collected enough sap, pour it into a low, shallow pan. Put the pan on the grill and boil it. The water will evaporate, leaving you with syrup.

That's the simple explanation. Even simpler would be to buy it directly from a production sugarbush like at Riveredge, but Bauer says if you start today, you may be able to produce enough from your yard to get close to a pint of syrup before the season ends.

"You don't need all this song and dance at home to make maple syrup happen for your family." said Bauer. "If you've got a tree, if you've got some time, come and get a kit, set up a grill and make something sweet for your family this year."

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