Yes, you can make maple syrup (and sugar)from the trees in your own backyard, even if you only have a few. The basic method is simple and has not changed since we borrowed the idea from the indians. You tap the tree, boil the sap down till all the water is gone and presto changeo you have yourself some good old fashioned maple syrup. It's hard work, but the end results are tasty and the whole process itself can be a rewarding one!
What Will You Need?
1. A bitstock and a bit (any 7/16 inch bit will do) to bore the hole.
2. Spouts -(one for each hole) - you can buy manufactured spouts from a maple equipment outfit, of which their are many in the northeast part of the united states. Also i have read that you can make a wooden spout by selecting an elderberry stem a little larger than the hole to be filled. Then Cut it off four to five inches long. Sharpen one end to go into the tap hole. Use a slender rod to push the pith or heart wood out of the center and you have your spout.
3. One container to catch the sap per tap hole. We use a blue bag (if you go the bag wrote i highly suggest using a blue one because it will keep out the suns rays and prevent bacteria from forming faster then it would otherwise)specifically made for this purpose. Other options one could try would be a bucket or wooden, metal, or plastic pail. Rusty cans or pails may be used by placing a plastic liner or polyfilm bag inside the container. We used to use pails but we have 600-700 taps and you can imagine how much work it is to clean that many buckets. I have also read of folks using plastic gallon milk or cider jugs. These allegedly work well in combination with a wood, metal, or plastic spout. You could use an electric drill or other cutting tool to make a hole in the top of the flat side of the jug. Make the hole large enough so that it can be slipped over the spout.
4. We have a smaller operation on our farm but we still have a pretty big storage tank (1000 gallons) and it is a galvanized tank. However the amateur could use some clean galvanized or plastic trash cans, larger pails or something similar.
5. You will also need a deep metal pan such as a canner or wash tub that can hold five gallons or more. This will serve as your evaporator pan for boiling down the sap into the yummy syrup.
6. As for your choice of where to boil you have a few options. 1. A fire place in the back yard would work well if it was set up proper, even one that you could make temporarily from brick, cinder blocks or stone to fit your boiling pan would be fine. Another option could be a wood stove set up outdoors. You can even attempt to do this project in your kitchen on your stove top, but i don't recommend this option.7. When cooking out doors you will need dry, fast-burning wood it is essential as it provides the heat necessary for boiling. Slab wood, dead trees, etc. are perfect, as long as it is dry.
8. For testing to see when the syrup is done you need a syrup or candy thermometer. A litle side note here, maple syrup when boiling is 7 degrees hotter then boiling water.
9. When you are finished, store your syrup in previously purchased plastic jugs. You could also use clean metal containers or glass jars that will seal - canning jars are perfect for this.
10. It is very important to be sure that all collecting, boiling, and storage containers are kept clean to avoid off-flavor, contamination and other problems.