Canadian maple syrup is famous the world over and usually considered by Canadians and non-Canadians as superior to the stuff they produce in places like Vermont or Maine. There’s just something about that delicious, sweet taste that people absolutely go wild for, and maybe it’s our clean air or maybe it’s all in our heads, but the fact is that Canadian maple syrup simply seems to taste better than all others.
Of course, the only thing better than enjoying Canadian maple syrup is enjoying maple syrup that you’ve lovingly collected and prepared yourself, and the process couldn’t be easier. In fact, the basic steps really haven’t changed one bit since the First Nations people discovered the secret to maple syrup thousands of years ago.
Tapping the Tree & Collecting the Sap
The first step to making your own maple syrup is to seek out suitable trees. Even if you only have a few maple trees on your property, you should easily be able to collect enough sap to make yourself a decent batch of homemade maple syrup. Although really any species of maple will work (and there are quite a few), some people claim you should only use sugar maples (also known as hard maple or rock maple), as they produce a sweeter, more flavorful syrup than soft or red maple.
To tap the tree, drill approximately a 1/5 inch hole about three inches deep in the tree. Only trees over 8 inches in diameter should be tapped. For every additional 8 inches, you can drill an additional tap in the same tree.
After drilling the hole and fitting your tap, hand a clean bucket or pail under the spout, making sure to fully cover the container to prevent debris from getting in the sap.
Boiling the Sap
Once you’ve collected enough sap to begin filling a five-gallon pot, fill the pot around of the way full with sap, then set to boil on an outside fire or stove. The sap will likely need to boil for many hours, and you can continue adding fresh sap to the boiling sap as it cooks down. Continue boiling the sap until it thickens and the temperature is exactly 7 degrees over the boiling temperature of water for your altitude.
Transfer the syrup immediately over to canning jars or other airtight containers and then let cool before storing. For a fun treat, why not pour some of the boiling syrup over fresh snow to create a tasty, sticky, taffy-like treat.