Tapping a Maple Tree
It’s best to tap sugar maple trees before the sap begins to run. Drill a hole 1/4 inch in diameter and about 1 ½ inches deep, three feet up from the ground. Typically, the sap is a clear, slightly sweet liquid containing about 1-4% sugar. It will take about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup. To produce the finest quality maple syrup, the sap should be evaporated as soon as possible.
From Sap to Syrup
When it’s sugaring season, clouds of sweet maple-scented steam billow from the sugarhouse cupolas and steam stacks. An evaporator is where the boiling of the sap takes place. Stainless steel pans sit atop an arch, or firebox, where firewood creates an intense, hot fire.
As the water in the sap evaporates, the sap thickens and as the sugar caramelizes it looks like hundreds of golden bubbles in the front pan. As the water is boiled off, the liquid becomes sweeter and more concentrated. This is when the boiling sap turns a rich golden color. When it reaches 219°F/103.8°C, it has become maple syrup. The sweet-smelling steam is a sure sign that the sugar-making season is in full swing!