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R Parian
Post     Subject: PEP BB foraging.sand.maple - make maple syrup

Here are some pictures of me making Big Leaf Maple syrup.  Since taking this photos, I've switched to using sap sacks and regular spiles rather than than this clear tubing and jugs.  I prefer the sap sacks because there is no tubing to clean at the end of the season (mine grew black mold inside that was hard to clean out) and I can get frozen sap out of the sap sacks unlike with the jugs.  The only disadvantage of the sap sacks is that bugs get into the sap, but they are easy enough to strain out.  Note that Big Leaf Maple sap sugar content is a lot less than sugar maple sap, so it isn't a case of boiling down 40 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of syrup - instead it is probably closer to a 60:1 or 80:1 ratio and the syrup isn't as good for putting on pancakes (it has a stronger flavor), but is excellent drizzled over some vanilla ice cream!
Mike Haasl
Post     Subject: PEP BB foraging.sand.maple - make maple syrup

I'd say you're halfway there!  You can tap trees in the fall when the weather is in similar conditions as for spring tapping.  Lows below freezing, highs above.  Keep up the good work!
Nicole Alderman
Post     Subject: PEP BB foraging.sand.maple - make maple syrup

Five and a half years ago, with my son strapped to my chest, we tapped some Big Leaf Maples. Most of it we drank as sap, but we also boiled some down for sap. It half filled one of those maple syrup bottles, so I believe this means I'm halfway to this badge bit!
Mike Haasl
Post     Subject: PEP BB foraging.sand.maple - make maple syrup

I made some maple syrup this year.  Tapped 50 trees and made about 12 gallons of syrup and 1.5 gallons of maple sugar.  The sap was very sweet (30:1) vs a normal ratio of 40:1.  
Mike Haasl
Post     Subject: PEP BB foraging.sand.maple - make maple syrup

This is a badge bit (BB) that is part of the PEP curriculum.  Completing this BB is part of getting the sand badge in Foraging.

If you live in a colder climate, options to grow your own sugar are limited.  Luckily it grows on trees!  Or, in them...  Let's make some syrup!

There are many trees that you can tap for syrup.  Sugar maples are the gold standard but most maples will work.  Box elders, birch and walnut can also be tapped but their syrup tastes different and boiling techniques may vary.  For a maple tree in an average season, it will produce 10 gallons of sap which should make about a quart of syrup (40 to 1 ratio).  So all you need is one half of a maple tree to complete this BB!

There are many YouTube videos and it's hard to pick a few that show the steps well.  Before drilling holes in your trees, surf the web for a while or talk to some people who do it already.

The key details are:
  • Tap trees in the spring when the days start to hit 40F.  Sap generally runs when it's above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.  Collect the sap in a covered bucket or pail.  The sap will "keep" about like milk so boil it into syrup periodically, keep it very cold and boil weekly or freeze it and boil once at the end of the season.
  • Boil the sap into syrup outside.  5 gallons of sap makes a pint of syrup and all that steam will make your wallpaper fall off if you do it inside
  • Syrup is done when measured with a syrup hydrometer.  A free way to guesstimate its completion is when it drips very thickly and kind of "sheets" off a spoon.  
  • Filter the hot syrup through a syrup filter or a milk filter if you live in dairy country.  Coffee filters are too tight/fine.  Dishcloth would work.  This step isn't critical but it's nice to get the chunks out.
  • Put hot syrup into warm mason jars.  If you know it was at official syrup density, you're done.  If you guessed or used the spoon technique, keep the syrup in the fridge after this point since you can't be sure it's shelf stable.

  • To complete this BB, the minimum requirements are to make a pint of finished syrup from a tree (not necessarily maple).

    To document your completion of the BB, provide the following:
     - A picture of one of your tapped trees
     - A picture of your sap
     - A picture of the boiled down syrup