Browsing the archives for the maple trees tag.


Video of Maple Tree Tapping

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Here is a short video I took of Dave tapping the maple tree. It goes a little wonky at first…but it’s pretty interesting to see how fast the sap starts to flow!

For more info on our maple tree tapping and syrup/sugar making, you can see these previous posts:

Enjoy the video!

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Wild Tree Water, Syrup, Sugar

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Freshly collect maple sap before boiling: wild tree water!

Freshly collect maple sap before boiling: wild tree water!

Above is our wild tree water: the fresh sap collected from maple trees. It looks and has the consistency of water, but tastes slightly sweet. Maple water is a true spring elixir! We loved drinking it just like this: I filled my water bottles with it and we used it as a base for our smoothies. Heated up it makes an excellent base for teas as well (sweet teas!) But really it is only slightly sweet, and if you are used to drinking sweet things like soda pop you may think it just tastes like water.

At first we boiled it down on the stove, which has many drawbacks, especially if making a whole season worth of syrup. You need to boil it for a very long time, so that uses a lot of gas or electricity. It also puts off a lot (!) of moisture, so your wallpaper (if you have it) may peel and your home will become quite humid. Outdoor cooking is ideal. We cooked it outdoors and boiled it way down, then took it inside to finish, because at the end you want to watch it and make sure it doesn’t burn.

boiling the sap into syrup

boiling the sap into syrup

You can use a wood fire outside, but our good friend Joe brought over his propane beer making keg, which worked fantastically!

Propane beer making "keg" which we used to boil down the syrup

Propane beer making "keg" which we used to boil down the syrup

Here you can see the sap inside, as we were heating it to a boil:

sap heating up in the cooker - looks like water

sap heating up in the cooker - looks like water

The beer making keg had a thermometer, which allowed us to see that it did boil at 212 F. If you are in the mountains this may be different.

Boiling at 212 F

Boiling at 212 F

We drained off the cooked sap, but it was still not quite finished. We took it inside to boil it for another hour or so until it became syrup. You will know it is syrup because the color darkens, and the property of the boiling changes: it looks like little fizzy bubbles coming up through a thicker liquid. You have to watch because at this point it can boil over.

draining off boiled sap to finish inside

draining off boiled sap to finish inside

Also, if you have a cooking thermometer, the syrup is done when the temperature goes up 7 degrees from the boiling point (in our case, it went up to 219 degrees.)

maple syrup

maple syrup

The syrup may turn out lighter or darker than you expect, and even from batch to batch. Here is our syrup on the left (lighter) versus some grade B store bought syrup:

Our syrup (left) is much lighter in color than the store bought syrup on the right.

Our syrup (left) is much lighter in color than the store bought syrup on the right.

Another fun thing to do is make maple candies. I poured off all but about a cup of syrup, and kept the final cup simmering on the stove. I stirred it fairly constantly for about 45 more minutes. It kept almost boiling over, but when I stirred it would calm down. When it reached 234 degrees it boiled way up and I knew it was done. I poured it off and make little candies, which were not hard candy, but molds of maple sugar.

maple sugar candies

maple sugar candies

maple candies

maple candies

maple sugar

maple sugar

We enjoyed our maple syrup adventure so much!!

Two books I used which helped me with this process are:

Thanks so much to Tracey whose trees we tapped and who offered us a place to stay for the better part of a week, and Joe for all his help and for the use of his beer making keg. What a wonderful week of connecting with friends and nature.

You can also read about how we made our own spiles and how we actually tapped the trees in the past couple blog updates.

Hope you are all enjoying the earth’s awakening! We are also waking up and getting ready for the emergence of many wild edibles. I bet Wintercress is already out there. We have a surprise for you coming soon so stay tuned!

Lots of love and light and life!

Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot

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Making Maple Syrup, collecting the sap

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We are back from collecting sap and boiling it down into syrup and sugar. What a great experience. We left the taps in the trees because the sap will continue flowing all through March (until the leaves come out on the trees, then the tree will begin to make new food again through photosynthesis). Our friend will continue to drink the delicious sap (which has the look and consistency of water but tastes just a little sweet) - she’s a raw foodie. Maple sap is an amazing spring elixir and tonic.

First, locate your maple tree. Right now in Western Pa it has small red buds. The bark is light gray and smooth with fine vertical ridges when it is young, as it matures it will turn dark gray with deeper ridges. You’ll be able to see the bark in the pictures below. You want a tree that is at least 10 inches in diameter, or has about a 31 inch circumference. The guidelines in this bulletin from the University of Maine’s cooperative extension let you know how many taps you can put in a tree based on the size of the tree.

One of our beautiful budding maple trees!

One of our beautiful budding maple trees!

You can tap any kind of maple tree for syrup, whether it is a sugar maple or not. Red maples, silver maples any kind of maple. Sugar maples usually have more sugar in their sap than others, but that is not always the case. It does take quite a lot of sap to make syrup, though (you’ll see in later posts.) But it’s about 40:1, so 40 quarts (or 10 gallons) of sap water will boil down to about 1 quart of syrup. By the way, other kinds of trees can be tapped for syrup as well including sycamore and birch.

First, we used a battery operated drill (you can also use a hand crank) to drill a 1/2 inch hole about 2-3 inches into the tree, at a slightly upward angle (so the sap could flow down our spile into our jug.)

Drilling a 1/2 inch hole about 2-3 inches into the maple tree

Drilling a 1/2 inch hole about 2-3 inches into the maple tree

Then we tapped the spiles which we made from staghorn sumac (see our previous post for info on how to do this) into the hole. The sap immediately started dripping out of our spile. Luckily we picked a beautiful sunny afternoon to tap the trees. The trees need to be about 40 degrees F for the sap to flow. It flows best in the late winter/early spring, when temperatures rise above freezing during the day and drop below freezing again at night.

Tapping in the spile we carved out of staghorn sumac

Tapping in the spile we carved out of staghorn sumac

We used empty plastic water jugs to collect the sap. We actually left the top on, but made a hole (or sometimes an “x” with a knife into the side of the jug,) which fit over the spile. This allowed the sap to flow directly into jug, protecting it from wind or rain and kept bugs and other debris out.

Placing the jug over the spile to collect the sap

Placing the jug over the spile to collect the sap

We could have made a notch in the spile and hung the jug from their, but we chose to put a nail in the tree and hang the jug from there. (Really the jug stayed on the spile by itself, but we did this just in case.)

Tapping a nail into the tree to hang the jug

Tapping a nail into the tree to hang the jug

You can buy maple syruping supplies like metal spiles and buckets on line (or if you are in New England maybe even at your local hardware stores.) But we had fun carving our own spiles and catching the sap in these jugs worked quite well.

Stay tuned to find out how we boiled it down to make delicious syrup and delectable candies.

I’m so excited that the earth is waking up and that wild food will soon be out in abundance!!!

Love,
Melissa Sokulski from Food Under Foot

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Food Under Foot Taps Maple Trees!

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We love collecting wild foods in the city. One thing our little house with it’s 20 by 60 foot property does not afford us, though, are maple trees.

Fortunately we have friends with land that live nearby and this year they have invited us to tap their trees to collect maple sap and make syrup! We are so grateful and super excited!

We got up bright and early this morning and collected some sticks from staghorn sumac trees. The hole in the tree will be 1/2 inch diameter, so we tried to find sticks that were just a little bigger. Sumac trees have a soft pith inside which is easy to push out with metal coat hanger. Then we widdled one end down to less than 1/2 inch, this is the side we will hammer into the tree (after drilling a 1/2″ diameter hole about 2-3 inches into the tree, see our next post which tells exactly what we did.)

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tapered ends

tapered ends

This is how a staghorn sumac looks during the summer, just in case you are wondering which tree I am talking about:

Sumac tree in bloom with foliage - not how it looks right now!

Sumac tree in bloom with foliage - not how it looks right now!

Now there are no leaves, but the old red berry clusters are still on them, which makes them very easy to identify. The staghorn sumac has velvety branches, but you can use any red berried sumac. Poisonous sumac has white berries, so as long as you see trees with clusters of these red berries (which may not be as vibrant red now, but they will still look red) you have the right tree to use. I believe elderberry trees also have a soft pith that can be pushed out, so if you happen to know of an elderberry tree you can use those instead.

We put 11 spiles into 8 trees and have been collecting sap and boiling it down into syrup for 3 days now! We’ve made delicious maple syrup and delectible maple candies. I’ll share more later…with pictures and maybe even a video or two!

Enjoy mud season! It’s also maple syrup season!
~ Melissa Sokulski
Food Under Foot

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