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Posted: March 16, 2014

DIY: Make your own maple syrup (it’s easy, we promise)

Written by: Staff Reports

Mike DiMauro is a head instructor at the Maine Primitive Skills School, which leads classes on how to make maple syrup, among other outdoors classes. Photo by Michael Douglas, Maine Primitive Skills School.

By Michael Douglas, Teacher at the Maine Primitive Skills School

Winter is loosening its icy grip. There is a sigh of relief, we made it through another one. Even better, spring is coming. Make this transition into warmer weather exciting: Go outside and find the maple trees in the woods. This is the time to make sugar and syrup. And it is easier and more fun than you think.

March is when red maples and sugar maples are both waking up from winter dormancy. The sap flows best when the days are above freezing and the nights are below freezing.

Maples are common and a great source sap and sugar. It takes about 33 gallons of sugar maple sap to make one gallon of syrup and about 38 gallons of red maple sap to get the same. At the Maine Primitive Skills School, we get these amounts with 10 trees in less than a week. After four weeks of good sap flow, we produce about a gallon of syrup each week.

In the end, it costs between $20-$30 for 16 ounces of syrup. This is a great way to save money, and it is a means of spending quality time outdoors.

What you’ll need:
Buckets (metal or glass are best)
Spires (also called taps, you can find them in your local farm supply store or online for about $1-2 a piece. They’re foolproof.)
A drill
A stainless steel pot

What to do:

    • Make sure your Maple trees are at least six inches in diameter.
    • You will want to have your buckets facing south (or on the side of the tree that gets the most sunlight) because that’s where the most sap runs.
    • Once you find a good sized tree and figure out where the sunniest side is, drill about an inch to an inch and a half through the bark with a 7/16 to 3/8 drill bit. (Tip: If you are going to use the same tree multiple years in a row, you want to make as small a hole as you can to set your spires.)
    • You can collect your sap every week.
    • Once collected, put the sap in a stainless steel pot on your stove and bring it to a boil. Stir (or risk destroying your pot). Boil it until it’s the desired consistency. The darker the syrup, the higher the sugar content.

We’ll be sharing the process of making syrup and sugar as well as foraging for early spring edibles and traditionally used medicinal plants in our, “Early Spring Foraging” class April 2-6 in Augusta. For more information email or visit

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