How to Make Maple Syrup and 3 Maple-Infused Recipes

Master the maple-makin’ process — from choosing and tapping the tree to preparing and storing your own pure, matchless maple syrup — and try your finished product in this trio of tasty maple syrup recipes.

| December 13, 2011

The following is an excerpt from Maple Sugar by Tim Herd (Storey Publishing, 2010). Apple pie may be the most oft-mentioned exemplar of Americana, but few North American food traditions are as treasured as maple sugaring, few tastes as iconic as maple syrup. With the know-how delivered in this manual, you’ll learn how to tap the trees, secure the sap, separate the sugar and, most importantly, savor the treat. Author Tim Herd includes fascinating maple history — did you know maple sugar was once a political issue? — a maple tree field guide, and everything you need to know to produce maple syrup for profit or just plain fun. A perfect book for food, nature and DIY enthusiasts alike. This excerpt is from Chapter 6, “Do-It-Yourself,” and Chapter 7, “Maple Delights.” 

Can This Tree Be Tapped?

Any native maple tree with a trunk diameter greater than 11 inches can be tapped. Wherever the tree suffers from such stresses as wounds, disease, insects, soil compaction, pollution or drought, it is better to go a little easier on it by placing fewer taps. Trees with large crowns extending down toward the ground are usually better sap producers. Follow these guidelines for how many taps you can put in a tree:

Trunk Diameter (measured at 4 1/2 feet above the ground) 

11 to 17 inches = 1 tap
18 to 24 inches = 2 taps
24 inches and up = 3 taps

While tapholes located on the south side of the tree may flow earlier than those on the north, east or west (because of the sun’s warming), no evidence suggests that they yield more over the entire run than those on other sides of the tree. Likewise, locating a tap over a large root or below a large branch doesn’t have an appreciable effect.

For ease of collecting, most taps are made between 2 and 4 feet above the ground. You’ll want to avoid any previous tapholes by 5 to 6 inches vertically and 2 to 3 inches from side to side, locating new tapholes slightly above or below them to keep wounds to a minimum. Using a bit size of five-sixteenths (instead of the traditional seven-sixteenths) creates smaller tapholes (promoted as “health spouts”) that heal faster and allow for a more tappable area in future years.

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