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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 your boiling rig
     - A picture of the boiled down syrup
    COMMENTS:
     
    steward
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    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.  
    20190423_090144.jpg
    A portion of one day's boil
    A portion of one day's boil
    20190423_192823.jpg
    One day's production
    One day's production
    DSC05077.JPG
    One of the better running trees
    One of the better running trees
    Staff note (Dave Burton) :

    I hereby certify this BB as complete!

     
    steward
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    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!
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    Mike Haasl
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    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!
     
    gardener
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    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!
    045.JPG
    One of my tapped trees.
    One of my tapped trees.
    051.JPG
    Sap boiling setup outdoors.
    Sap boiling setup outdoors.
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    Sap boiling outdoors.
    Sap boiling outdoors.
    syrup-008.JPG
    Skimming foam.
    Skimming foam.
    syrup-003.JPG
    Almost done boiling down syrup indoors.
    Almost done boiling down syrup indoors.
    syrup-006.JPG
    Filtering out the sugar sand.
    Filtering out the sugar sand.
    syrup-011.JPG
    More than a pint of syrup from this batch.
    More than a pint of syrup from this batch.
    syrup-015.JPG
    Another shot of the syrup.
    Another shot of the syrup.
    008.jpg
    Tapped trees using sap sacks.
    Tapped trees using sap sacks.
    005.jpg
    Finished syrup in jars.
    Finished syrup in jars.
    Staff note (gir bot) :

    Mike Haasl approved this submission.

     
    gardener
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    I'm tempted to try this with Birch sap, as we don't have maples here. Would this be acceptable?

    (edit for spelling, d'oh!)
     
    Mike Haasl
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    BB Requirements wrote:
    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


    Yup, birch is allowed!
     
    Luke Mitchell
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    Fantastic. I'd missed that. Thanks for clarifying.
     
    master gardener
    Posts: 1945
    Location: Carlton County, Minnesota, USA: 3b; Dfb; sandy loam; in the woods
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    Approved submission
    We moved from town to our new country home in the northwoods just under a year ago and we're trying to do all the things. Last winter I read up on tapping birch for syrup, bought some crude supplies, and then in April got started. It was a slightly bumpy ride -- we have aspen and birch and had to learn the difference, reducing the birch sap needs to be done very slowly, on warm days you'll get a bunch of bugs in the pails, the sap runs enough to overfill the pails I used, real pails would work better (and I should start planning for next year), etc.

    But I did it and took pictures. I'm not sure how to get the video into a post, so I've just decide to link you to an album I've shared at Google Photos if you want to see the sap dripping. Additionally, I'll call out a small set of images here to satisfy the BB requirements.

    You can see three of my six pails in this image:

    I reduced it indoors, in a pasta pot on an electric stove by keeping the temperature around 180F:

    As it reduced, I'd periodically add more and more all day and at the end of the day put it in the fridge. It got pretty dark:

    When it was all done, I reduced it further and ended up with just under half a gallon (which eventually got turned into forest brew ala Pascal Baudar):

    I think my future probably includes a proper outdoor reduction facility with a wood fire and a broad pan, but not this year.
    IMG_5113.jpg
    pail hanging from stile
    pail hanging from stile
    IMG_5114.jpg
    one pail
    one pail
    IMG_5117.jpg
    three pails
    three pails
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    reducing sap-water
    reducing sap-water
    IMG_5140.jpg
    much darker reduction
    much darker reduction
    IMG_5722.jpg
    finished syrup
    finished syrup
    Staff note (gir bot) :

    jordan barton approved this submission.
    Note: Awesome!

     
    Mike Haasl
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    Hi Christopher, I can't see your photos.  Could you edit your post and try to use the "Attachments" tab just below the text entry box to import your pictures?  That works much better than photo hosting site links.  Thanks!
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Submission flagged incomplete
    It's only taken me 8 years to make the full amount....

    Nicole Alderman wrote: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!

    tapping our trees when my son was an infant...

    tubing flowing into 5 gallon jugs

    final boil down

    finished maple syrup!



    I finally got a chance to really tap our trees. The sap was really flowing. We collected gallons and just let it simmer on our woodstove, slowly evaporating, pouring more in as we brought it in from outside. Then we went to do the final boil down on the stove. My husband thought he could help while I was gone. He turned it up and walked away...and came back to find inches of black charred lava stuff. Much sadness.

    So, we started again!

    My son is now 8, and still excited about maple syrup!


    We didn't have clean 5 gallon jugs, so I just used plastic tubing straight into gallon-size mason jars. This worked pretty well! We tapped this tree in four places.

    simmering it down on the stove


    more slow simmering


    And finally, after 8 years and far more burnt sap than usable sap,

    Finished Big Leaf maple sap!
    Staff note (gir bot) :

    Someone flagged this submission as not complete.
    BBV price: 1
    Note: Looks like you're still a bit short of a pint since that appears to be a .75 pint container.  Sorry!

     
    Posts: 39
    Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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    It is "Le temps des sucres" here in northeast Quebec! The maples have been giving the past few weeks event though there's been ups and downs in temperature.

    You can see a tapped maple in the first picture. In the second picture, this is my sap collecting system as I go from maple to maple every day. And finally the well-anticipated product! I am proud to perpetuate this cultural tradition.
    336617020_942185807133061_975233149954076147_n.jpg
    Tapped maple
    Tapped maple
    336648173_239827525082434_410568284326829105_n.jpg
    Sap collecting system
    Sap collecting system
    336753800_1962268020781092_4761329729881501012_n.jpg
    Maple syrup!
    Maple syrup!
    Staff note (gir bot) :

    Someone approved this submission.

     
    Posts: 3
    Location: Michigan
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    Edge case submission
    Hello! I’m trying for my very first BB! My first time tapping trees and boiling sap down for syrup! Six total taps across 5 trees, and over 8 gallons of sap to start with. We spent 6 hours outside boiling down the sap, and then another few hours inside boiling it down to syrup! We’ve still got the buckets and taps up, so I have high hopes for next time too!
    610000C4-4E5D-448E-AECF-DBB1FE993413.jpeg
    Tapped trees
    Tapped trees
    BF67F9AF-19C4-4098-9637-E4E92835F606.jpeg
    Day one of tapped trees
    Day one of tapped trees
    4BA7F603-5360-488D-988D-6C548FD00F6D.jpeg
    Sap in the buckets
    Sap in the buckets
    FEEBCE2C-18F2-49C3-9055-F4845BC08A08.jpeg
    Boiling rig
    Boiling rig
    F95AB221-FBA6-4E0F-A9AA-98B5AEB19995.jpeg
    Sap boiling
    Sap boiling
    D3B3028F-16C2-4DFE-973E-1783DA7046DF.jpeg
    Moved inside for more boiling
    Moved inside for more boiling
    D4E61803-3F44-4830-A06D-36CAA872310D.jpeg
    Slowly boiling down
    Slowly boiling down
    475DAEC0-46B2-4D95-B852-78D9D0E09A0D.jpeg
    Final products!
    Final products!
    Staff note (gir bot) :

    Ashley Cottonwood flagged this submission as an edge case.
    BBV price: 0
    Note: Hi Elizabeth! This is a lovely BB submission, you are so close! Any chance you can show us the final product, say, being poured on some pancakes? Your final picture shows us the lovely bottles, but not the syrup itself!

     
    Elizabeth Cook
    Posts: 3
    Location: Michigan
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    Oh right! Thank you for that! I should’ve posted a picture like that! Here you go!
    97666E5D-A8A3-41BE-9252-A169C214575A.jpeg
    Homemade maple syrup
    Homemade maple syrup
     
    Elizabeth Cook
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    Location: Michigan
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    Approved submission
    I’m going to resubmit for the BB! Here are all my pictures together! Thank you for your help!
    CB73A422-4144-47DA-8A3E-953176F092C3.jpeg
    Tapped trees
    Tapped trees
    141095D5-FB9B-4CAC-869F-9FE12753FB56.jpeg
    Collected sap
    Collected sap
    68E5E5C2-EC7A-47B0-B038-DE2963755D77.jpeg
    Boiling rig
    Boiling rig
    83DAB285-8ED4-4F93-B702-3FD1260FF211.jpeg
    Boiling down
    Boiling down
    1210D693-054E-4573-878E-EB434CEC8AF5.jpeg
    Cooked down to a smaller pot
    Cooked down to a smaller pot
    CC8E4A35-65BD-4AB9-98F2-BA64BDD36723.jpeg
    Inside on the stove
    Inside on the stove
    A1B024DA-CC4E-459B-A852-6090F1FF786A.jpeg
    Boiling down more
    Boiling down more
    D6217F4E-153D-4D0B-8BBD-A5748047C15E.jpeg
    Finished bottles
    Finished bottles
    B95ED348-27C7-4526-908F-03CE3D37618F.jpeg
    Poured syrup!
    Poured syrup!
    Staff note (gir bot) :

    Someone approved this submission.

     
    That is so lame! You now get a slap from this tiny ad!
    Our perennial nursery has sprouted!
    https://permies.com/t/174246
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