Tap Maple Trees at Home – Collect Sap & Make Syrup
Depending upon the weather conditions, sap will start to flow immediately after tapping the tree. It drips from the spile into the bucket or sap bag. Maple sap is a clear fluid and resembles water. The collection amount may vary. Some days you will collect only a small amount and other days your buckets or sap bags will overflow if not emptied.
Transfer sap from buckets sap bags to storage containers
Use only food grade containers to store your collected sap. You can food grade quality 5 gallon buckets, 5 gallon jugs or smaller poly tanks. Be sure all containers are thoroughly cleaned using a mixture of one part unscented household bleach (such as Clorox® Regular-Bleach) to 20 parts clean water. Scrub the containers and triple rinse with hot water.
When sap is flowing, collect the sap daily. Pour the sap from the bucket or sap bag into a storage container, using a sap filter bag to filter out any foreign material. If a portion of the sap is frozen, let it thaw and then run through the filter.
Storing your sap
The sap should be stored for no more than a day or two at a temperature of 38° F or colder, in containers on the north side of buildings to keep out of the sun. You should boil the sap as quickly as you can to eliminate any possible bacteria growth. Remember that sap is like milk, it will spoil quickly if not kept cold. The old sugar maker’s always used to say, “If it’ not boiling it’s spoiling!”
Process sap into maple syrup and other uses
Treat sap like any other nutrient taken directly from nature to include in your diet. When you pick berries in a field, they can be eaten directly from the bush; however, it is generally a good idea to wash them first. Many drink sap straight from the collection bucket, but it is highly recommended you boil your sap prior to any use to kill bacteria that may be present. To effectively kill bacteria, bring the sap to a rolling boil and then let it boil one additional minute.
Maple Sap: Many believe that drinking maple sap is a way to energize the body after a long winter. In South Korea, the drinking of sap is linked to a wide range of health benefits. Here is an interesting NY Times article about the use of maple sap in South Korea. Maple sap can also be used to make coffee / tea, brew beer, and in just about any recipe calling for water (to add a subtle sweet, maple flavor).
Maple Syrup: The most common use of maple sap is to process it into maple syrup. To make maple syrup, the excess water is boiled from the sap. It takes 40 parts maple sap to make 1 part maple syrup (10 gallons sap to make 1 quart syrup). Because of the large quantity of steam generated by boiling sap, it is not recommended to boil indoors. If you do decide to boil the sap indoors, make only small batches and ensure good ventilation (and keep an eye that your wallpaper does not peel off the walls). If you boil outdoors, make certain you are in compliance with any local regulations. Fire safety must be your highest priority, especially when young children are present. Below is one method for boiling your sap.