The Heart of New England
Backyard Sugaring: How to Make Maple Syrup at Home
By Betsy Luce

If you live in Northeast
and have a maple tree
in your back yard, it can be
a fun and educational family
experience to
tap your own
maple tree and make syrup

What you need to start

First, you will need to obtain a sap spout from either a local farm supply store,
or a sugaring supply company, such as
Leader Evaporator Company, a sap
bucket (also available at your farm or sugaring supply store) and some kind of
cover to keep the rain and snow out.

Next, select a maple tree that is at least 14 inches in diameter (which would make
it at least 40 years old). Drill a hole with a 7/16 drill about 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep
... at about waist high. Hammer your spout into the tree and either attach a sap
bucket or a plastic bucket. Put only one tap per tree.

Sugaring season begins around mid-February and goes until March and early
April (depending on where in New England you live and how early the spring
thaw arrives).

How do you know when its time to tap maple trees?

Check the outdoor temperature during the day and at night: If its gets 40 to 50
degrees F during the day and somewhat below freezing at night, you can bet the
sap is flowing. This combination temperatures during the day and night pushes
the sap up from the roots into the trunk and branches, where it freezes, and then
the next day as it warms up, it drips out your spout.

How much sap do you need?  

It takes 40- 50 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup, so you might
expect in 4 to 6 weeks to get 40 quarts of sap from a tree which would make one
quart of syrup. Sap looks like water and is about 2 percent natural maple sugar.

Directions for making sap into syrup

Collect the sap from your bucket every day the sap drips (some days may be too
cold or too warm and you won’t get much of anything) and try to boil it within 24
hours. Since you are evaporating most of the water, you will be producing lots of
steam so back yard boiling works best on a gas grill. As the water is evaporated,
the sap gets thicker and starts to look golden brown.

When the boiling is getting near done, and reaches 212 degrees F the syrup will
double in volume so make sure to have a large enough kettle to handle this
expansion. When your product is near syrup, it might be best to take it inside
and finish cooking it on your stove (make sure you have the exhaust fan going or
you may loosen your wall paper with all the steam).

Maple syrup is cooked enough when its 219 degrees F so a candy thermometer is
critical. Overcooking will result in burning of the syrup and the pan. Maple
syrup needs to be refrigerated once it's done, and will keep for a couple years in
a glass jar. After all your hard work, pure maple syrup never tasted better and
will probably soon be gone in just a few days!

One back yard sugaring season is usually enough for most families ... but it
gives them a deep appreciation for nature -- and a taste for pure maple syrup
that will last the rest of their lives!

About the author: Betsy Luce and her family own Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock,
Vermont.  The farm is a 550 acre hill side farm located 5 miles outside Woodstock. She
writes: “We are working farmers with maple syrup production, cheese aging and smoking,
beef cattle, farm attraction, maple sugar house education part, nature trail, and farm
animals. We have about 37,000 visitors a year....who come from all over the country and
world, to taste our products, learn more about maple sugaring, and purchase Vermont
products. My parents started Sugarbush Farm in husband Larry is the farmer
part of the operation, and we have two sons, Jeff and his wife Kerry work here full time, and
other son Ralph works with my husband on the farming part of it...cattle, maple syrup,
logging, fire wood, hay sales.” You can visit their website at or
send Betsy an email at
Backyard Sugaring
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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