Tapping Maples on Blue Lake

4 Apr

Maple Tapping on Blue Lake

In the Northwoods, when the days are warm and the nights are cold, maple trees are ready to produce their most delicious of treats: maple syrup.  The oscillation between above freezing temperatures and below freezing temperatures causes maple trees to suck up water from the soil and produces pressure in their stems. Gravity then promotes the ensuing flow of sap out of available holes in the trees.  So, if you pay attention to the elements and bore a hole into a maple tree at just the right time, you can harvest the tasty outpouring as these folks are endeavoring to do with their taps on Blue Lake island trees.

To tap a maple tree for sweet maple syrup, first find a sugar maple tree as it has a high sugar content in its sap.  Make sure that the tree has a diameter lager than a foot an a half.  Also ensure that the tree has large, healthy limbs and stems which are exposed to plenty of sunlight.  Then, when the temperatures fluctuate between below 32 degrees Fahrenheit at night and in the 40’s during the daytime,  bore a hole in the sunniest side of the tree.  Avoid tapping beneath limbs, where there is damage to the trunk or where the tree has been previously tapped.  Your hole should be about three feet off the ground and approximately two inches into the tree on an upward slant.  Inset a spile-spigot into the hole and hang a bucket off of it.  Next, cover the bucket with a lid and wait for the sweet sap to collect in the bucket.  You’ll need about ten gallons of sap to make one quart of maple syrup.

Boil down the sap from the buckets on a daily basis to avoid spoilage.  Use a dehumidifier to remove the excess moisture from the air.  When the water is boiled off of the sap, it leaves the dense and sweet maple syrup behind.  Filter the maple syrup to remove extraneous debris from the mixture and place the syrup into glass bottles.  Or, boil the mixture down even more to make maple sugar and maple taffy.  The process will require a tremendous amount of fuel to keep the fires burning which is part of the reason why maple syrup is so expensive. But mmm, is it delicious!

Photograph by TC, used with permission.

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