It's almost time to start charting the high and low's of weather. Here in Ohio, Maple tree's will begin to get tapped in the next 3-4 weeks. After so much mundane life of winter, I look forward to having some action. I have 3 huge Maples which can host 2 tree taps each. The goal is to have as close to 1 gallon of our syrup adventure.
You want FREEZING nights and sunny day's above 36 to 40 F degree's. Some day's you may get very little sap. Other days-this is where attention to weather is important- you will have to change out your bucket/gallon jug containers every few hours. So be sure you have all day access to those tree's. You could always do larger containers. Have the Food grade tubes longer so they reach the buckets on the ground (use kitchen size or the 5 gallon and be sure to cover the top with a piece of wood or plastic preventing bugs or bits of nature falling in).
Here is a site you may wish to browse for more information on *collecting and boiling down your sap*.
We made a trip last year to Lehman's and purchased a few metal spout taps at 2-3 dollars each. I did try them along with my Home made tree taps. In comparison, I have to admit I like my homemade over the metal. Not only were the very inexpensive to make, they keep the sap cleaner due to the Food grade tubing, which directed the sap right into the gallon jugs.
Here is the link for last years set up and a short *How to on making my taps*.
As for the boiling pan, we used my water bath canner pot and for this year I will be trying something different. Instead of the stove top for boiling the sap down, we are going to try it out on the top portion of our wood burner. I am still on the search for another huge stainless steel stock pot which will be used for syrup making.
Our wood burner, unbeknown st to me until just a short time ago, has a rack top which lifts up to an actual cooking top. I mentioned to The Captain how I would like to experiment with cooking on our wood burner and he brought to my attention how This wood burner would accommodate my desire. Very Cool!
So now you have plenty of time to locate those tree's and get you equipment ready for the tapping season. Look at this as something to adventure in while the ground is still frozen for planting, the trails too cold for hiking and the hill's still too bare for sledding. ( at least in our part of the world).
If you are having problems Identifying Maples you can tap, just do an engine search for maple tree pictures which show a close up of the bark or go to the library and find a book to help you identify tree's. Not all maples are the same for sugar content BUT you can still tap them for syrup. The sap may need to be boiled down more then the supreme "Sugar Maple", making less sap to syrup ratio. It is still Maple syrup. Just more sap is needed then the other.
I have found each maple gives a slight difference in taste. We have one maple in particular, which gave us a sweet maple nutty syrup. Very much enjoyable but I do know it is not the supreme sugar variety. My neighbor loved it and we have scoped out a few more maples in the 'hood we may go asking for permission to tap. Not many people like the fact of a tap and container in their front yard, but if you have someone close by with maples in the back (or in front whichever they give permission for), do not be shy about asking. Explain it away as an experiment to relieve the cabin fever of winter. Something to do that gets you outside and of course splitting the syrup with them or an invite for a weekend brunch of maple syrup edibles would not hurt. Most people if offered an exchange of some portion from the syrup would be happy to oblige. The worse that could happen is they say no.
Experiment. Have fun. Enjoy the outdoor play and of course your product of all the labor. Your very own fresh Maple syrup to drizzle upon french toast, pancakes or to add into your baking.