How to Make Maple Syrup at Home

Learn how you can use freeze concentration methods to make maple syrup at home without the mess and expense of boiling the sap.

  • 025-042-01tab
    This chart shows the calculated cost and savings of using freze concentration to reduce maple syrup rather than boiling (as of 1974).
  • Tapping Maple Trees
    Tap maple trees for sap and make your own maple syrup.

  • 025-042-01tab
  • Tapping Maple Trees

I've always thought of thick, golden, pure maple syrup as one of the truly natural foods, even though I never tasted the real thing until I tried my hand at syrup production in the spring of 1971.

At that time my wife and I were living, courtesy of the U.S. Army, in northern Ohio. Near our apartment was some wooded land surrounded by large signs reading "No Trespassing, U.S. Government Property". With encouragement from my partner (she promised to write me every day if I was caught) I searched this "government property" — read "public," that is, yours and mine — and found several large sugar and silver maple trees. Once my source of sap was assured, I was ready to launch "Project Sweet Tooth".

Since I knew almost nothing about making maple syrup, I questioned local people and read the few books I could find on the arts of gathering and processing the valuable sap. My studies were very discouraging. According to the local and literary experts, "sugaring" required mountains of expensive equipment and almost unlimited amounts of heat to boil down the juice. One story I heard concerned a woman whose gallon of kitchen-made maple syrup cost her $100: an extra $10.00 heating bill to evaporate the 40 gallons of sap and $90.00 to replace part of the ceiling that was ruined by the steam from the operation.

This was rather discouraging news, especially after I had consulted my financial advisor and found that a maximum of $1.48 could be spared from our budget for "Project Sweet Tooth". My wife also reminded me that our landlord might not take kindly to the sight of steam billowing from our kitchen. Undaunted, I prepared to tap the maples.

My sap-gathering equipment consisted of a 29¢ pack of plastic straws, 49¢ worth of quart-size plastic bags, some nails and a 1/4-inch drill. The procedure was equally simple: I bored a hole (angled slightly upward) through the bark, inserted part of a straw into the opening (it should be a tight fit) so that approximately 1/2 an inch of the tube stuck out from the surface, and then nailed a bag underneath to catch the dripping juice. In one week, during which I made the rounds once a day, I collected five gallons of liquid from four trees. Since this was all the raw fluid I needed, I plugged the holes with wooden pegs and left the grove none the worse for my activities.

I then again froze the concentrated sap, but this time allowed about half the ice to melt before I separated the liquid and discarded the solid remainder. The three quarts of fluid I saved from the second freeze were crystal clear and very sweet while the ice had only a faint maple flavor. Finally, I finished the project by evaporating the concentrated juice on our kitchen stove. The result was approximately one pint of sparkling, golden, delicious syrup, at a total cost of about 40¢ (20¢ for heat, 54¢ for straws and 15¢ for plastic bags).

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