How to Make Maple Syrup: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Maple Syrup

Have you ever driven around, seeing tin buckets hanging from trees and wondered how to make maple syrup? New England is known for its maple syrup, and today, I’m going to show you how to make your own maple syrup!

My husband and I have been making maple syrup for five years.  It all started when we moved into our house, and our friend was over helping us put together our bed.  He looked out our back window and said to my husband, “you have a lot of maple trees, we should make syrup!” and thus began the yearly tradition of making syrup!  We have since inspired some of our friends to make syrup and others just love to come and watch the sugar water boil… yes, syrup is all about watching water boil!

So how do you get started making maple syrup?

Step One – Identify Maple Trees

First things first – you need to make sure you have maple trees.  The maple tree part is really the most important part.  You’d be surprised how many people ask me if you can tap other trees – the answer is no.  You can tap sugar, red, silver, and white maples.  Typically it’s easy to find a maple tree if you look at its leaves, but if you start tapping trees this year, you don’t have that luxury, so you will need to identify the tree by its bark.

Step Two – Buying All Your Supplies

First, you need to collect sap from a maple tree, so you need to buy taps.  We tap about 30 trees a year, but you should start much smaller.  You can buy the taps online or at your local hardware store.  These are the taps we used originally started with.  I recommend starting small on your first attempt by tapping one to five trees, which means you will need one to five taps to start.

Once you have your taps, you need to find a bucket for the syrup to flow into.  Our setup we used when we first started had tubes that go down into the top of a 5 gallon bucket, similar to those found at Home Depot.  You will need one to five food grade buckets (one for each tree), but many just use regular five gallon buckets. We drilled a hole into the lid of the bucket so that the sap could fall into it through the tube.  This makes life a lot easier because you don’t have to worry about the buckets hanging on the tree and falling off.  We usually just put a brick or rock on the top of the bucket to keep them in place when they are low or empty, just in case it’s windy out.   The buckets we use are only used for syrup – you may want to use food grade buckets, and you can buy those buckets here.

If you are going to boil sap as you collect it, before your buckets overfill, you will not need any type of storage, but if you do not plan to boil as you collect, you will need food grade barrels/storage (similar to the size of a 32 gallon garbage can).

Just a note – if you have a good day of sap flowing, it’s quite possible you can fill a 5 gallon bucket in a day, and you will need a place to store all the sap you are collecting.  This is where the food grade barrels come in to play.  We found ours on Craig’s List or we have seen many people buy cheap, new 32 gallon garbage cans such as these.  I recommend getting one storage container to start.

In order to boil the syrup, you will need a way to heat the sugar water (sap).  You will need a propane tank (the kind you use for your grill), and one propane burner.  You will also need one large pot.  A turkey deep frying pot will work the best since they hold a lot of liquid.  You can probably kill two birds with one stone and buy a deep frying kit that comes with the pots and burner, like this one.

Miscellaneous items you will need are two oven mitts, a kitchen strainer, and a candy thermometer.  The thermometer is REALLY important.  Make sure you buy a good one because if you go over in temperature, you will find yourself with maple candy… I’m serious.  BUY A GOOD THERMOMETER!

You will also need filters, such as these and a holder to put the filters in, which is optional.

When it’s time to bottle the product, you will need four items, a filter, an optional filter holder, an optional coffee urn, and mason jars (
we use 8 oz ball mason jars).

Does this seem like a lot?  It can be a little intimidating, but once you start going, you will notice, it really isn’t that bad and it will become second nature to you after your first try.  You will become addicted, and then you will be building stuff like a Sugar House!  Yes, we now have a sugar house, copula and all 🙂

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