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Making Maple Syrup - Part 1

February 28, 2019

It's syrup season!  I have been making maple syrup for 8 years now, thanks to a very thoughtful Christmas gift from my wife.  In the past, I would tap just the trees in my yard and a few others thanks to friends and family.  It was just enough to supply our family and gifts to the owners of some of the other trees.   Over the years, I expanded slowly, adding a couple buckets here and there.   This year, however, I wanted to offer something special to the club and members here at TPCC.  I purchased a bunch of extra taps and buckets and tapped the trees out here on the golf course in the hopes that I could supply Chef Jay with syrup made at TPCC to use in his dishes.  In this week’s blog post, I thought it would be fun to walk you through the process of how everything was made from start to finish.


Sap dripping from freshly tapped tree.

Collection

To begin, you have to select the trees to tap.   While most any Maple tree will produce sap, the preferred varieties to tap are: Sugar, Black, Red, Silver.  As the name implies, Sugar Maple sap has the highest percentage or sugar content, a whopping 2%.  All trees selected should be older than 30 years and in good health.  Larger trees can support 2 or 3 taps, but I don’t ever install more than 2 per tree.  It’s important to note that, if selected properly, the tapping process has no ill-effect to tree health.   Many farms have been tapping the same trees for generations.  Once the trees have been identified, the next step is to tap them, insert the spiles and hang the buckets.

A hole is drilled at a slight angle, roughly 2 inches into the tree.  The sap flows in the vascular tissue of the tree, called the Xylem.  It is located just inside the bark/pith layer but it’s necessary to get into the hard wood of the tree to secure the spile and bucket.   After drilling, clean the wood chips from the hole, hammer in the spile, and hang the bucket.  If you are doing this on a warm afternoon, the sap should start flowing immediately.   The sap flows best when the daytime temperatures are above freezing (ideally in the 40’s) and the nighttime temperatures drop into the 20’s.   In general, a good tap on a good tree will yield a few gallons of sap per “run”.   This may seem like a lot, but considering average yields are 40:1 (40 gallons of sap yields 1 gallon of syrup), it takes a copious amount of sap to get a little bit of syrup.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next month when I take you through the Boiling, Finishing, and Canning steps of the syrup-making process!

See you at the club,
Scott LesChander
Grounds Superintendent


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Readers comments:

Leslie Vogelmeier, 3/5/2019 11:03:58 AM EST   55555
Very interesting! Love the new and innovative things you are bringing to the course. Thanks for all you do! 

Muril T Read, 3/4/2019 6:27:28 PM EST   55555
What a fun and interesting adventure to take us on! Haven't read about "sapping" trees since I was in school (many years ago). I am eager for Part 2. Thanks, Scott, for allowing us to accompany you on this process! 

Barry Vogelmeier, 3/4/2019 1:14:36 PM EST   55555
Always something interesting to learn from the plant Doctor LesChander 

Tom, 3/1/2019 3:40:02 PM EST   55555
Great idea! 

Janice Kunkemoeller, 3/1/2019 6:39:35 AM EST   55555
I really enjoyed reading this Scott, as well as the little talk on Wednesday afternoon. Thank you for all your hard work. 

Anonymous, 2/28/2019 7:28:48 PM EST   55555
 

Steve, 2/28/2019 4:11:38 PM EST   55555
Very informative, and great stuff you’re doing, Scott!