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Maple Syrup from New Hampshire

April 13, 2013

Maple sugar season is ending so I purposely drove to Brookline, NH to take photos of the taps and pails on the trees. I stopped in at Parker’s Maple Barn and chatted with a tour guide and the manager of the store. No time for the fantastic breakfasts they serve there.

I plan to read up on maple sugar and New Hampshire’s part in the production. Stay tuned.


Here is a link to Parker’s website and their history in the maple industry. Put it on your list to visit when you come to southern New Hampshire.

Update: I just looked up more information about how maple syrup is made….My husband and I love maple trees for the color they add to our yard and the surrounding countryside. I have always wondered if we have any trees that we could tap to produce maple syrup. After reading various articles I think I will go out this fall to mark a few possible trees. And then I will finally be “Farmer Meg”.

How can you figure out if you have sugar maples in your yard?

–First you have to live in the right climate for the sap to run. If you do not live in New England, New York State, western Pennsylvania and some parts of the Middle West especially Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin you are out of luck.

–Cool sunny days with temperatures in the 40’s and below-freezing nights in the early spring are ideal for a good sap run. There are a few other times you could get sap but the work you have to put into it for the amount of yield is rarely worth it.

–You need to know the difference between red (also called soft or swamp maples) and sugar maples. If you look in the summer or fall you can compare the leaves. In the summer you can see that the red maple has small saw toothed-leaves and the sugar maples edges are smoother. Red maples turn bright scarlet early in the season. A sugar maple turns pink-yellow-orange several weeks later.

I took this photo last fall. Which kind of maple tree is this?

I took this photo last fall. Which kind of maple tree is this?

Red maples (and other types of maples) do produce sap but the quality of the syrup is inferior. Also you have to boil down about twice as much sap to get the same amount of syrup.

And this one? From Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, NH.

And this one? From Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, NH.

If you want to experiment with a few trees buy a few spouts at a hardware store, farm equipment store or by mail. Wait for the right day so that you do not tap too early. Rule of thumb: plan to tap about a month before the last snow melts in your area. I think I would just watch for when the farmers around here start to tap and then I would tap my trees. Use a 7/16” bit drill. Drill a hole angled slightly upwards to a depth of 2.5 inches about 2 feet up from the ground. A tree twelve inches in diameter can be tapped with one bucket Measure the tree about 4.5 feet from the ground. (not from the top of any snow that is almost undoubtedly on the ground).   For every six to eight additional inches you can tap another hole up to a maximum of three buckets. The sap will probably run for about six weeks after you tap the tree so do not tap too early or you might miss the best sap.

Then drive the spout into the tree with a hammer securely and hang up your collecting bucket.

I found that there a slight variations in directions between books and websites so nothing written here is guaranteed to make you a successful maple syrup producer.

Heck, why don’t I just share the “how to’s” from the New Hampshire Maple Producers website. Please visit their site and other sites for more facts, figures, recipes and locations for purchase of equipment and maple products.

  1. Select a healthy-looking maple tree that is at least 12 inches in diameter at about chest height for one tap. Trees eighteen inches or more in diameter can accommodate two taps. Do not over tap. Sugar maples provide the sweetest sap, although black, red, silver, and Manitoba (box elder) maples can also be tapped. During a good season, one tap in the average sugar maple will give about ten gallons of sap, yielding about one quart of syrup. When tapping any of these other maples, more sap is required to make a quart of syrup. Tap holes will usually dry up in about 6 weeks, so its best not to tap much before the season begins.
  2. Basic equipment you will need for just a few taps: Drill, hammer, spiles (spouts), buckets with covers (or special plastic sap bags or tubing), collection pail or barrel (plastic juice barrels work fine), tank or barrel for storing sap, large pan to boil sap, white felt or paper filters, large kitchen strainer to hold the filter, two or more large pots or kettles, accurate candy thermometer, (hydrometer is optional), a funnel and jars or jugs for bottling the finished product.
  3. Use only food grade pails and containers and be sure all of your equipment and containers are clean and rinsed thoroughly with hot water, as soap residue will flavor the syrup. Never use containers that once held toxic materials.
  4. At about 2-4 ft. above ground level (not snow level), 6 or more inches away from old tap holes, and using a 5/16″ drill for health spouts (7/16″ for older-type spiles), drill a hole in the tree at a slightly upward angle about 1 ” deep. Check to be sure your hole is not in dark brown wood. Tap on any side of the tree, but a tap on the sunny side will run earlier.
  5. With a hammer, gently tap spile (spout) into the hole and hang a covered bucket, plastic sap bag, or attach plastic tubing to the spile.
  6. Collect and filter accumulated sap each day, keeping it cold to prevent souring.
  7. Completely boil each run of sap daily, using a large, clean, open pan. The larger the opening at the top of the pan, the faster the water will evaporate. While this is boiling, watch your evaporator pan to be sure it doesn’t go dry and burn. Boil until product reaches 7.5 degrees F. above the boiling point of water for that day.(or 59 Brix or 32 Baume on the hydrometer). The bulk of the boiling should be done outside of the house, as large amounts of steam will cause wallpaper to peel. When syrup nears the proper density, it will foam up. When this happens, reduce heat or touch foam with just a drop of cooking oil or butter. It will recede almost immediately. Be careful not to burn the syrup with too hot a fire.
  8. When syrup has reached the proper temperature or density, remove it from the pan and filter it through a wet, clean, white felt or paper filter. Be sure filters are free of odors. Syrup will pass through filters best when boiling hot. After rinsing filter, squeeze out excess water, do not wring.
  9. If you’re bottling syrup in plastic jugs, cool the syrup to 180 – 190 F. before filling. Syrup can be poured into glass canning jars at a higher temperature. After filling each plastic jug, seal and lay on its side for several minutes before standing them upright. Space upright containers so they will cool quickly. When packaged properly, syrup will keep well at room temperature. Refrigerate after opening.
  10. When the buds first appear on the tapped tree, it’s time to pull your taps. Perhaps they have already dried up. Sap from budding trees makes unpleasant-tasting syrup.
  11. Clean your equipment during and at the end of the season, but do not use soap.

Good luck. Next March I will let you know how my maple taps  and production go.

Fall Colors. Heald Tract, Wilton, NH

Fall Colors. Heald Tract, Wilton, NH

Beauty of Leaves

Beauty of Leaves

Another maple leaf

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