The maple tapping season is among us here in the Twin Cities and for others in the northern zone 4b. The temperatures are currently perfect to get the trees flowing. The temperature high must be above freezing during the day and the low must dip below freezing overnight. Looking at the forecast for the week, it appears we’ll be in prime tapping zone for the next five days at least.
Each year, my husband, daughter, chickens and I all gather ‘round the large silver maple tree in the back corner of our yard and watch as my husband drills holes and gently taps in the spiles. My daughter always must bend down and taste the fresh sap straight from the tree, letting it drip into her mouth, before the collection pails are hung.
It’s a special tradition that kicks off the beginning of a new season for us. This process means that spring is near.
Tapping One Tree
Since we just tap the one large silver maple tree, our production is pretty small scale. We use a turkey fryer, reserved specifically for syrup making, to boil down the sap to a point where we can bring it inside to finish off into syrup. All in all, we normally end up with more than enough syrup for an entire year and even have enough to share some with friends and family.
We lived in our home for seven years before we learned that we could tap just this one tree and have it provide us with enough sap to make the process worthwhile. We expected that people would need a forest of trees to be able to have enough sap.
But that’s not the case at all.
I’ve put together a short list of supplies that you’ll need to get started tapping your own tree(s). People do this process in many different ways—do what works for you—but these are the supplies that my family uses for our small production.
Maple Tapping Supplies
- Drill and drill bit to drill a hole into your tree. You’ll need to reference the size of the spile that you are using but ours is a 5/16-inch drill bit.
- Spile(s) with hooks to insert into the hole in your tree. This will direct the flow of the sap into your collection pail/bag. A hammer would assist in gently tapping the spile into place as well.
- Collection pail/bag to collect your sap. When we began tapping our tree, we picked up starter kits from the nature center. They came with collection bags that hung on the spiles. As we committed to making syrup annually, we purchased some nice pails that we attach to the spiles. The pails come with lids to keep debris out.
- Food-grade 5-gallon buckets with lids to pour the collected sap from the bag/pails into. We collect the sap until we have enough to boil down, which is generally about 7 gallons.
- Turkey fryer with propane tank or other setup for sap processing.
- Cheesecloth or syrup straining bag. The sap and syrup will be strained a couple times throughout the process for clarity.
While this article doesn’t explain the entire process of tapping trees for syrup making, it does give you an idea of what supplies are needed to get started with the process.
For in depth instructions on how to make your own homemade maple syrup from start to finish, check out Stephanie Thurow and Michelle Bruhn’s new book, Small-Scale Homesteading, released March 14th, 2023.