17 How to Make Maple Syrup

Maple trees are magical. Not only have they graced the Earth since the time of the dinosaurs, but they also have tremendously long lifespans, with some species living up to 400 years. In fact, the oldest maple tree in Canada – currently under environmental protection – is believed to be over 500 years old. Historical records indicate that people have tapped the maple trees for their sap for over 150 years. Settlers learned about the sweet syrup from the indigenous people who have various legends explaining its discovery. One prominent legend tells of a chief who flung a tomahawk at a maple tree, only to have the tree split open and release its sap. His wife then cooked their meal in the sap (Pickert, 2009). Regardless of its origin, maple syrup has become a staple in Canadian cuisine and is used to flavour meats, seafood, vegetables, and all kinds of dessert.  The cost of maple syrup, however, is relatively expensive. What people don’t know, though, is that it is not too difficult to make your own maple syrup from scratch – if you have the right maple tree near you, that is. To make your own syrup, simply follow the steps below.

Step number one is to find the right maple tree. With over 150 varieties worldwide and ten native to Canada (Turner, 2019), this is no easy task. First find a maple tree near you. Maple trees are identified by their special five-point leaves. Although all ten of Canada’s maple trees can be tapped for syrup, the sugar maple has the highest concentration and works the best (Instructables, 2020). To find a sugar maple, look for a grey bark with green leaves that have five prominent points (Maple Syrup World, n.d.). Then examine the size of the tree. Measure the diameter. A tree needs to be at least 12 inches in diameter to be tapped (Instructables, 2020). In the case of a wider tree, say 20 inches in diameter, you can prepare two taps instead. Once you have found a suitable maple tree, move on to the next step – tapping it.

To remove the sap from a tree, you need to insert taps. The best time of day to collect sap is in the afternoon, when the temperature is warm and the sap flows easily (Maple from Canada, 2020). The best time of year is March and April. According to Tap My Trees (2019), where you drill the hole and the size of the drill bit you use is important. For comfort, drill the hole at the height of 3 feet – ideally, above a fair size root or just under a large branch. The size of the drill bit you use depends on the size of the tap you are using. Most taps need a 5/16 or 7/16 drill bit (Tap My Trees, 2019). Once you have the right drill bit, drill a hole (at a downward angle) into the tree that is around 2 to 2 ½ inches deep. Insert your tap and hammer it into place. The sap should flow immediately so hang a small bucket on the tap. Once you have collected the amount of sap you require, there is only one more step between you and your maple syrup – removing the water.

The last step in making maple syrup entails boiling your fresh sap. The sap does not become syrup until around 67% of your liquid is pure sugar (Instructables, 2020). Pour your collected sap into a pot on the stove and bring to boil. Remove the lid and let the water in the sap evaporate as you continue boiling it at 219°F.  Keep in mind that this is a very time-consuming process. According to Davenport and Staats (2013), it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce a mere gallon of syrup. As the sap boils, skim off the foam that accumulates on the surface. A final step, although this is often ignored by the layperson, is to filter the syrup through a clean cloth or piece of wool to remove any remaining ‘sugar sand’ or small particles of sugar. And voilà – you have your own maple syrup!

To sum up, although the process of making your own maple syrup is time consuming, it is – in essence – quite simple. In three easy steps and with relatively few supplies, you can handmake your own maple syrup for your family or even with your family – a memory worth every minute of your time.



Davenport, A., & Staats, L. (2013). Maple syrup production for beginners. Retrieved April 24, 2020 from https://extension.psu.edu/maple-syrup-production-for-the-beginner

Instructables .(2020). How to make maple syrup. Retrieved April 23, 2020 from https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-Maple-Syrup/

Maple from Canada. (2020). How it’s made. Retrieved April 23, 2020 from https://www.puremaplefromcanada.com/about/how-its-made/

Maple Syrup World. (n.d). Five easy ways to identify a maple tree. Retrieved April 23, 2020 from https://www.maplesyrupworld.com/pages/5-Easy-Steps-To-Identify-A-Maple-Tree.html

Pickert, K. (2009). A brief history of Maple Syrup. Retrieved April 22, 2020 from https://time.com/3958051/history-of-maple-syrup/

Tap My Trees. (2019). Tap maple trees at home. Retrieved April 24, 2020 from https://tapmytrees.com/tap-tree/

Turner, N. (2019). Maple trees in Canada. Retrieved April 23, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/maple


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