Sap season here in NH runs from mid February to mid April. The temperatures need to be above 35 degrees during the day and below freezing at night. Our temperatures,until the last week or so,have been for the most part,too cold for the sap to run consistently. Some folks have had their trees tapped for a few weeks now. We just put our buckets out yesterday. We have had a lovely stretch of daytime temperatures from the upper 30's to the mid 50's.I was looking over my notes from last year,and we tapped our trees on Feb 22. The temps were in the upper 30's to low 40's,but we should have waited until a bit later. We wound up having a real cold spell,which stopped the sap.
There are a couple of ways I am familiar with to gather sap. One is the old tried and true bucket hanging off a tap.Others use plastic tubing from tap to tap so the sap runs down the tubing into a bigger container. As you can see from last year's photo,we use the old bucket method.
Rick,Zach,and I went out and tapped our trees. First, we boiled the taps and the metal buckets to sterilize them (never use soap! The taste gets into the sap).Then we had to check the trees to see where the old holes were,and we made new ones about 6" away from them. Rick showed Zach how to drill the holes:we used a 5/16" drill bit,drilled in at an upwards angle,and only drilled approx 1" in. If you hit dark wood,you've gone too far. The sap should start flowing right out of the hole. Zach did a good job. Hammer in the tap,hook up the bucket,and watch it come out!!Don't forget the covers!(Not shown in the photo) We put out 10 buckets in our yard. Trees need to be 12" in diameter to tap,and 18" in diameter for two buckets. We have three trees with two buckets. It was great to hear the sap dripping into the metal buckets. To me,that is the beginning of Spring! Our neighbors let us tap their trees,so we have 6 up in at their place.This makes a total of 16 buckets,6 more than last year,so we are anxious to see how well we do. The nice thing about gathering sap is you don't need Sugar Maples. You can tap any Maple tree. Sugar Maples are just sweeter,which is why they are the best tree to tap. We only have one Sugar Maple,so we also tapped our Silver Maple and Red Maples. We do have more,but right now they aren't big enough to tap.
The boys have gone up to the neighbors to begin the gathering process. We have white plastic buckets for this purpose. I have made a chart with the Date,air temp,# of buckets gathered,amount of sap gathered,amount boiled,and total amount of syrup. Those who have made syrup before know that it takes a lot of sap to make a just a bit of syrup-40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of syrup.
Our boiling system is very simple. We have no sugaring equipment. We use a tall standing propane burner and a large stock pot. We boil it down until it foams,strain it through cheesecloth,and put it in canning jars for storage ( we do not use any canning methods). The one thing folks need to know is that regular maple syrup does not taste like "fake" maple syrup,such as Vermont Maid or Log Cabin. Those have additives which make it thicker and sweeter. Real maple syrup has a light consistency and taste. The more you boil it down,the darker it will get,and the sweeter,but it's still nothing like fake syrup.The boiling process is long.It takes hours,so one has to have patience!
While we were putting out our buckets,folks who were driving by slowed down to see what we were doing. This morning I noticed as I looked out the window that folks were checking out our buckets as they drove by.I know I have always enjoyed seeing yards with sap buckets. I always thought it was neat and it made me want to make my own syrup. Hopefully,our buckets can inspire someone to try it for themselves!!!!!!!