Into the Woods with Andy


What a gorgeous last few weeks it has been up here at Camp Vermilion. The majority of the snow has finally melted, projects are piling up, and the maple sap is running.

Two weeks ago we tapped thirty or so maple trees to collect sap to produce maple syrup. We tapped mostly red maples, but also had a few sugar maples tapped as well. We no sooner got our taps in when the sap started flowing. It is always a guessing game as to when the sap will run. There is no one hundred percent fail safe way to tell how much sap you will collect either. Not having ever run taps here at Camp Vermilion, we didn't know what to expect, but after just one night we realized we were doing something right. After our first ten days, we had collected about twenty-five gallons of sap. We were not disappointed. The cold temperatures over those ten days kept the sap from running really consistently, however.

What did run usually ended up freezing in the tap lines. So, we decided to leave our taps in longer in hopes for a few more gallons. When I returned to work after Easter I found something I was not expecting. In the three days that I was gone the sap ran and it ran. I found three of our five gallon buckets completely full of sap, and numerous buckets half full or more. All said and done I ended up with fifty gallons of sap in just those three days alone. Now to turn it into the liquid sweetness we call maple syrup.

The maple sap that we collected is mostly water. The next process is to boil down the sap to evaporate off the water. It takes just about 30-35 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup once it is all boiled down. That is not an exact ratio; it is just a ratio we learned from researching and reading about the maple syrup process. It will take quite a bit of time to boil it down to the consistency we want. We measure the consistency with a maple syrup hydrometer. The hydrometer measures the density of the sugar in the water. Once the sap boils down enough, you use the hydrometer to read the sugar content. This determines if you still have sap or if you have crossed the line into syrup.

Once you have reached the desired point of syrup, just jar it up and enjoy. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy real maple syrup are with coffee and over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.


-Andy Arola

Camp Vermilion Site Director