Maple sap to syrup – from identifying the trees to tucking away your liquid gold is a long process, but it is SO worth it! Let’s get started!
Making Maple Syrup for Beginners
Just a handful of years ago, I could not have told you how maple syrup is made step by step, or explained where maple syrup comes from. But then we bought 2 acres and here we are! We began tapping our own maple trees on our property 3 years ago. Don’t get me wrong – we don’t live out in the country. We aren’t farmers. Our family is what you’d call urban homesteaders.
We live in the city, 10 minutes away from Starbucks and Target. But we have a little property that we love to utilize. We want our kids to know how to do stuff and to see where their food comes from.
My husband hunts and we’ve even butchered deer together as a family (I’ll spare you the photos!). I have an organic garden and we love to harvest and cook as much as we can from that garden produce.
We have chickens for free range eggs…and…we make maple syrup. It’s starts with nothing but a tree and it turns into the most delicious liquid that we use for months to come! It’s a family team building exercise and it actually gives us something we use all year to remind us of our effort!
Find out how to go from maple sap to syrup – start to finish with me!
Maple Syrup Collecting to Harvesting:
There are many steps in the process of maple sap to syrup. I wrote stand alone posts that cover the 4 biggest steps, but I realized I had never really put the full process together all in one place. So here you go! Maple sap to syrup in 6 easy steps!
Step 1 – Identifying the trees
You can tap many kinds of trees to make syrup, but the ones that give you the most sap for the least amount of work are sugar maples. They are kind of hard to identify in the winter once the leaves have fallen. So set a reminder in your calendar to go out in the early fall and mark your trees.
You can just tie a string around them if you’d like. That way when it’s time to do the tapping, you’ll know which trees to tap.
Step 2 – Tapping the trees
The next step in the process of maple sap to syrup is tapping the trees to collect the maple sap. I wrote an in depth blog post about this process. In it, I go over how to tap the trees and collect the sap. I also give links to the spiles and tubes we use, and give ideas on how to gather collection buckets in the most frugal way.
It even has a video that allows you to see the process of my son tapping the trees for the people that really love to see it done. He’s really smart, so he explains a lot of the process too!
Step 3 – Building a maple syrup evaporator
Once you’ve collected your syrup, you need a way to boil it down. You cannot boil sap inside your house because for every gallon of syrup you end up with, you boil off 39 gallons of water. Can you imagine having 39 gallons of water floating around inside your house? People who have tried that have had their paint peel, wallpaper begin to come off, and mold form in their rooms!
So you’ll need to do this outside. There are many ways to boil it down, but since we have access to lots of wood, our preference is building a maple syrup evaporator in our backyard that can be broken down when we are done with it. This summer, we set up the evaporator on the side of our house and we are using it as an extra compost bin! Double duty!
Step 4 – Boiling sap
You boil and boil and boil sap. We often have 30 or 40 gallons of sap to boil down, so we spend all day stoking the fire and refilling the pans. I wrote another in depth post about how to boiling sap and how to recognize when it’s time to move to the next step!
Step 5 – Finishing maple syrup on the stovetop
We’re almost done turning maple sap to syrup! Once you’ve boiled down the sap outside until it’s almost done, it’s time to bring it inside to finish it off on the stovetop. Because I boiled down sap multiple times this year, I just stored my almost completed sap in the freezer. Then the next time I did it, I just added them together and was able to do this final process at the same time.
If you’re canning your maple syrup, you’ll need to have all those things ready before you get this on the stovetop to finish off. But once all those things are ready to go, you can dive in to this final step!
Step 6 – Maple syrup storage
Once you finish the maple syrup on the stovetop, you need to figure out how you’ll be storing your precious liquid. There are a few methods of maple syrup storage. Maple syrup cannot just be set in a pantry and used like the pancake syrup you get from the store – unless it’s properly canned. But even then, once it’s opened it needs to be refrigerated.
When I first started using maple syrup, I used to buy it by the gallon in Amish Country. One day I grabbed my partly used gallon from the pantry storage and put it on our pancakes and thought I would die! If you’ve ever tasted mold, you know what this tasted like. It was the sweetest mold you’ve ever tasted! Yuck!
What was even worse was that there was most of the gallon still remaining and I had to throw it out. It was devastating! But, I did learn my lesson! Store maple syrup properly!
If you just have a small amount, you can certainly just store it in the refrigerator. But if you make quite a bit of it like we do, you’ll need another option. So what are some other kinds of maple syrup storage?
Can you can maple syrup?
Absolutely! This is what I normally do because it allows the maple syrup to be stored at room temperature. It’s not hard, but there is a process to follow to make sure that the maple syrup will not go bad before you’re able to use it.
The great thing about canning it is that you don’t need to use up any refrigerator or freezer space. Plus, when you’re ready to use it, it’s already at room temperature. It’s a little more work on the front end, but super easy when you go to use it.
In the last post about finishing maple syrup on the stovetop, I gave pretty comprehensive instructions on how to do it.
Can you freeze maple syrup?
YES!!! I wondered the same thing so this year I tried it out! I made sure to leave head room in the mason jar in order to allow for expansion. Because almost all the water was boiled out of this, mine didn’t expand a ton.
The really cool thing is that it never completely froze! It was almost the texture of a maple syrup slushy! I found that it worked really well and I would definitely do it if I didn’t want to take the time to actually can the syrup.
How long does maple syrup last?
If you store it in the refrigerator, maple syrup will last about a year. If it’s canned properly in a mason jar, it can last for many years! Honestly, ours has never gone past a year because we eat it so fast. But I’ve read that it can last from 4 years to indefinitely! You can store it in the deep freeze indefinitely as well. I try to use things in my freezer within about 2-3 years because more than that just creeps me out!
So that’s the process of going from map sap to syrup. I hope it inspired you to jump in and try it out yourself. I think you will absolutely love the process, and more importantly, the reward!