Eating the Weeds: Maple Trees

You, yes YOU can tap your own maple tree.

Now you can tap any maple tree for syrup (and even sugar!) Some other types of trees yield yummy syrup, too, but sugar maples make for the best syrup.

How do you identify a maple tree?

Now that you know what tree you’re looking for, you need to know how to tap it. You can buy taps and buckets/bags online for hella cheap. You’ll also need a drill.

You can tap maple trees in late winter/early spring. Larger trees can have multiple taps. You want to tap them before they start budding though, because otherwise the final syrup will have a bitter taste. Here is the best basic DIY tapping video I could find on YouTube that’s watchable in under five minutes. Tapping the tree is very basic and requires no fancy or expensive equipment:

How fuckin’ simple is that!? Drill the hole, insert the tap, hang the catch/bag, PROFIT. Now, the ratio of sap/syrup that I’ve read is about 40/1. Basically that means you have to catch 40 gallons of sap to have a finished product of 1 gallon of syrup. Now let’s be honest with ourselves….do we really go through a gallon of syrup a year?

Maybe a gallon would be needed if my fiance’s obsession with breakfast foods were to be fully realized and I were to live out my fantasies of being Leslie Knope. After all, waffles are the best food ever. But honestly, you’re probably not going to need a whopping 40 gallons of sap. Especially when you’re first starting out, just taking what the trees give you and turning it into something special will do.

And how do you do that?

Before you even turn on your stove, you need to strain the sap (if it’s later in the season and if it’s the first catch, you can probably skip this step). If you’ve collection just a small amount of sap, a coffee filter or cheese cloth will do for straining. The folks who do this on the large scale build their own buildings for processing syrup, but you can do it on your stove:

This is another one of those all day projects where I suggest a marathon of your favorite show (Fringe? Maybe even X-files? Nothing is quite as sweet as Agent Scully’s shoulder pads.)

You can do this several times a season, until the weather becomes too warm and the trees stop flowing. Now  that you have your sweet magical tree juice, can your maple syrup or keep it in the fridge until you drink down the last tasty drop.

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