Learn How to Make Maple Syrup

Learn how to make maple syrup, from finding equipment to tapping maple trees, then evaporating the maple sap, and finally enjoying the simple sweetness of your labors.

| January/February 1975

  • Pancakes And Maple Syrup
    Store-bought brands cannot beat the delicous taste of real, pure maple syrup over a stack of steaming hotcakes.
  • 031-066-01-image
    Sap is extracted from the sugar maple by "tapping", which means boring a hole in the trunk of the tree to cause a flow of juice.

  • Pancakes And Maple Syrup
  • 031-066-01-image

One winter day I was splitting logs in the backyard when a man drove up to make a delivery. He looked at the not inconsiderable pile of fuel and said, "What's all this wood for?"

"In a couple of weeks I'll be using it to make maple syrup," I told him.

My visitor thought a moment and then asked, "What do you want to go to all that trouble for? You can get syrup in the stores."

"'I just do it for fun," I said . . . and the delivery man shook his head and climbed into his truck. He probably went away puzzling, the way the hired man in Frost's poem puzzled over the college boy's remark that he "studied Latin like the violin/ because he liked it".

All the same, the reason I gave the curious driver was the truth. It isn't the demands of a sweet tooth or a desire to make money that moves me to tap the maple trees when spring arrives. It's rather a response to an impulse like the one that prompts the Canada goose to lift from the waters of the Mississippi Delta country and wing his way to the breeding grounds around Hudson Bay. Perhaps what drives me is an elemental instinct to produce with my own labor something from the riches of the good earth.

I have sold some syrup, but most of what I make I keep for my own use or give to friends. (I get a smug feeling when they say, "Oh, this is a lot better than the stuff you get in the stores.") And, until the last couple of years, my equipment for this non-profit operation has been simple, frequently of the "make do" variety. I assume that, if you're thinking of following my example, you have somewhat the same point of view. If your purpose is to turn out maple products on a large scale, you will of course consult experts and specialized publications. (For an account of sugaring as a homestead moneymaker, see How to Make and Market Maple Syrup. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS) 

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