Very little equipment is necessary to make maple syrup. Much of the equipment you may already have on hand and most of the rest can be purchased at your local store. Maple syrup equipment supply stores will carry some of the items that are unique to making maple syrup such as spiles (spouts), hydrometers, and finishing filters. You can also find a variety of online shopping sites that carry all the equipment you will need.
- A 7/16 inch drill bit and a portable drill.
- Each hole will require one spile (spout).
- Metal and wood buckets, or plastic milk jugs can be used to catch the sap from the trees. The containers will need a hole in them on one side near the top that is large enough so they can be slipped over the spiles.
- You can store the sap you collect in large metal or plastic trash cans.
- The evaporator pan you will need to boil the sap can be a metal pan, or large deep wash tub. It will need to be large enough to hold at least five gallons of sap.
- Brick or cinder block outdoor fire pits that are large enough to sit your boiling pan on are excellent for boiling the sap. Outdoor wood stoves also work well. The sap cannot be boiled in your kitchen and must be boiled outdoors.
- The heat necessary for boiling the sap comes from fast burning and very dry wood.
- The best way to tell when the syrup is done is to use a candy thermometer.
- Filter the maple syrup while still hot through felt or flannel filters. A double flannel filter is best. Your maple syrup supplier has filters and special straining containers you can purchase.
- Canning jars or any clean glass jar that can be sealed tight can be used to store the finished maple syrup.
- Finished maple syrup should weigh at least 11 pounds per gallon. You can also us a hydrometer (optional) to tell you when the syrup is done.
Making Your Maple Syrup
- Not all maple trees are the same and your tree will need to be a hard maple to be a good sugar maple tree. Soft maple trees do not make good maple syrup and should not be used. At 4 ½ feet above the ground your tree will need to be at least 10 inches in diameter. The best rule of thumb would be 1 tap for trees between 10 inches and 20 inches, 2 taps for trees between 20 inches and 30 inches and 3 taps for trees that are over 30 inches. The best producing trees are usually the ones with large crowns.
- Use your 7/16 inch drill bit to drill a hole at a convenient height and about 3 inches deep. For trees with multiple holes keep the holes not any closer that 2 feet over or under the old holes.
- Drive the spile (spout) tight enough so it cannot be pulled out, but not hard enough that you might split the tree.
- If you purchased your spiles you can hang the container on the built-in hook. Use a piece of wire to make a hook if you made your own spiles. Make sure the buckets are covered.
- Each tap should produce 10 gallons of sap during the six week season, which will produce approximately 1 quart of maple syrup.
- Collect your sap and place it in your collection container until you have enough to start boiling. Start your fire and begin boiling. Be careful not to fill your boiling pan more than 2/3 full to prevent the sap from boiling over. To help prevent the sap from boiling over you should rub vegetable oil on the top rim of your boiling pan. Add more sap as the water boils out and do not let the level of the sap in the boiling pan reach lower than 2 inches. It takes a lot of time to make maple syrup, so keep your fire going and be patient. One of the most important things to remember at this time is never leave your fire unattended.
- Sap left in the containers will sour if left in there, so collection buckets need to be cleaned after each use. You should always boil any collected sap as soon as possible.
- Use your candy thermometer to tell you when your maple syrup is finished. When the temperature reaches 7 degrees F above the boiling water temperature it has become maple syrup. This will give you about a 67 to 69 percent sugar content. You need to determine what temperature your water boils at because at different elevations water boils at different temperature. Your hydrometer is another excellent way of testing your maple syrup. Maple syrup will weigh 11 pounds when it has the proper 67% sugar content. If your maple weighs more than 11 ¼ pounds, crystals can form on the bottom of your container.
- Before you pack your maple syrup into containers you need to pour the hot syrup through a filter. Felt, flannel or specialty filters all work good for this process. Now its time to pour the hot syrup through a filter before you pack it in containers.
- The maple syrup needs to be 180 degrees F when you pack it into containers. The containers you’re going to pack the maple syrup into need to be sterilized before you put the hot syrup in them. Lay them on there sides after filling the containers for a better seal.
- Your maple syrup needs to be stored in a cool place, and should be kept in the refrigerator after it is opened. You can also freeze your maple syrup if you do not have a cool place to store it.
- When cleaning your equipment, use hot water and a mild chlorine solution. Soap and detergents leave a residue than can contaminate the flavor of your next batch, and should not be used.