Friday, January 16, 2009

Maple Syrup

This is the third year I have tapped the Southern Sugar Maple and by far my most productive. The main thing is tapping it earlier in the year. This year I tapped them on January 3 and sap was running even then. I may need to tap them around Christmas. There are several locations of Southern Sugar Maple in Cabarrus County. 20 years ago, I noticed a large population in Southern Mecklenburg County. Trees need to be about 10 inches in diameter. Last year I tapped a couple of smaller ones that were going to be cut anyway. They gave very little sap and it was at odd times compared to the larger trees. The injury is the same actual size which means it is a large relative size. The literature says to tap at least 3 inches over and 5 inches up or down. From the picture you can see that I didn’t spend a lot of money on the set up. The 2 liter drink bottles were salvaged. 3 liter bottles would be better. Last year I had 3 liter bottle and it only overflowed once. The irrigation hose was salvaged. I had the nails and string on hand. I suggest a square knot or two half hitch knot around the neck of the bottle and an overhand knot at the top of the string so the bottle can be removed to pour out the sap. One bad thing about this set up is that the nail will be held tight by the end of the sap flow. Future generations will probably curse me because of it. At least I can use the same nail for at least three years. If I had cut the irrigation pipe a little longer, the pipe could go anywhere on the tree while the bottle still hangs on the same nail. In colder climates, people have to worry about the sap freezing but here in the sunny south that isn’t as much of a problem. Sometimes I do get a little ice. I think the pure water freezes first, so little chunks of ice can be discarded without losing much other than water. I cook down the sap on a camp stove and finish it up inside. I am getting abut a 40 to 1 ratio of sap to syrup. The other two years, the amount of syrup I get per tap has been less than what growers in Maine and Canada report but this year I am at about 10 ounces per tap and still counting. You can look at the maple syrup in the store and get an idea of how far to cook it. You don’t cook it down to the consistency of corn syrup. Compared to the USDA grade A amber maple syrup in the store, I have cooked down one batch that is lighter this year. Most of the syrup is a little darker which is considered a lower quality although I can’t really tell the difference in taste. Even at grocery store prices, tapping and boiling syrup isn’t real profitable but it is fun.


Gary said...

I would love to try this. I think my wife will really think this is cool. How does the sap taste in comparison to the Yankee saps?

Gardening Guru Goforth said...

I don't know. I am too cheap to buy the store bought stuff.

Chiot's Run said...

We love tapping our maple trees! So much fun, we actually save lots of money doing it ourselves.