Ever wanted to make your own maple syrup? With a few tools of the trade and a maple tree in the backyard, you’re just a few easy steps away from coating your waffles and cakes in homemade maple syrup. It’s the tastiest DIY project to tackle this spring, and there’s still time to get cooking, as weather forecasts call for temperatures ideal for streaming sap.
MyNorth videographer Kris Riley hangs with Jodi Simpson—Traverse, Northern Michigan Magazine’s favorite circulation manager—as she explains the ins and outs of gathering sap from two gorgeous maples behind her downtown Traverse City home and boiling the raw sap down to sweet, amber-colored syrup.
Tip: Most farm and feed stores carry maple syrup taps—or find them for sale on the web.
Even if you only have access to a couple of sugar or black maple trees (red and silver maples will work, too, though their sap doesn’t have as high a sugar content) you can make enough syrup for at least one memorable pancake breakfast! Here’s what you’ll need to make maple syrup:
- Spouts (also called spiles) for each tap hole. Farm and feed type stores usually carry these.
- Drill with a bit that is the same diameter as the narrow end of your spout.
- Very clean plastic milk jugs. Screw the lids on (to keep out snow, rain, and debris) and make a hole, just big enough to hang the jug from the spout, toward the top of the side of the jug that is opposite the handle.
- A large-bottomed pan that is at least six inches deep.
- Outdoor heat source. A grate set on two cement blocks over a bonfire with plenty of firewood works; so does a camping stove with plenty of fuel.
- Candy thermometer with a scale that is readable from 200 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A filter for straining the sap and the syrup of bark, ash and any other debris that may get in during the collection and cooking process. Several layers of cheesecloth works. Or Check farm and feed stores for filters specially made for maple sugaring.
- Sterilized jars with lids for storing the syrup.