Types of Trees to Tap
Most everyone knows that sugar maples are the most traditional tree tapped for syrup. However, any maple tree can be tapped for syrup. I personally tap silver maples.
Beyond maple these trees can also be tapped for delicious homegrown syrup:
Climate is Everything
In order for any of the tappable trees to actually produce sap, they need to be in an area that has a winter or at the very least a period of freezing. Folks who can grow citrus aren't going to be able to tap trees for syrup. This is just a simple and true fact that there seems no way around.
The optimum time to tap varies not only from region to region, it varies from year to year. Trees should be tapped when the temperatures reach the 40 degree Fahrenheit range during the day and drop to the 20s at night. While most of us know generally when this will happen in our areas, it's good to keep an eye on the forecasts to get the timing better.
The sap will naturally stop flowing once the temperatures rise too much above this range. It's always a good idea to pull the taps once the leaves start to bud.
Commercial producers have huge systems of tubes and evaporators and much more. At home, most folks keep it simple. To actually tap a tree, a hole needs to be drilled into the tree and a spile or tap of some sort must be placed. Buckets or containers to collect the sap are also needed. That's pretty much it for getting sap from the tree. Truly, Mother Nature does most of the work here.
Once the sap is collected, it needs to be boiled down into syrup. This is a lengthy process but still simple. Making syrup is simply boiling the sap until all the water is gone leaving only liquid sugar behind. The sap needs to be boiled until it reaches 7 degrees above the boiling point (boiling point changes depending on elevation, so it's important to know at what temperature it boils to calculate proper temperature here). I do this boiling on the stove, under a powerful hood. Many folks do it outside. It gets very humid inside, just a warning. Keep the syrup long term by canning or storing in the refrigerator.
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That's truly all there is to it. If you have the right climate, adding some homegrown and homemade syrup to the list of food creation and preservation ideas is a simple and fun thing to do.