Michigan-Made Syrup

Michigan-Made Syrup

Tapping and Boiling: A (Mostly!) Spring Guide to Michigan-Made Syrup

The Tap

I’ll never be one to complain about the coming of spring. Every year I look forward to the snow being replaced by morning frost, warming throughout the day. I look forward to the budding of trees, the greening of grass. But before we transition completely from winter to spring, there is one thing you must do in Michigan: make your own maple syrup!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-27,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

When the days begin to warm, but the nights still fall below freezing, it’s tapping season! Far more simple than one would imagine, anyone with a maple tree or two on their property (or use a friend’s and share the syrup) can participate in this must-do project. The supply list is as follows:

  • A spile (or tap)
  • Hammer
  • Drill with appropriate bit (a tiny bit larger than your spile)
  • Bucket with a lid
  • Last, but certainly not least, a tree!

There are many variations of this supply list (we use tubing to run from the tree to bucket), but until you get serious and start supplying your friends and neighbors with syrup, the shorter the list the better.

I won’t bore you with a long “how-to” list; you can find endless resources online with step by step instructions for identifying trees and tapping them, but the gist is this:

  • Take a walk in the woods and find some sugar maples! Other maples, walnut and birch trees, can be tapped as well, but sugar maples are most commonly used for their high sugar content.
  • Drill a hole! We usually dig between knee and chest height, and preferably on the south side of the tree, which gets the most sun. Drill to the depth of your spile, and push it in. On a good day, the sap will start flowing immediately, so place your bucket and let it run.

Every year I’m surprised by the amount of sap that makes its way into our buckets, and every year I am surprised by how far down the sap cooks once we boil.  Think 65 gallons of sap down to 1.5 of syrup. You can continue to collect sap for 1-3 weeks depending on the season, but once the temperatures stop falling below freezing at night, it’s time to pull the taps and get your boil on!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-27,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

The Boil

With our group of friends, the sap boil is a yearly excuse to get together, enjoy the outdoors, and stand around and watch water boil (literally). If you’re only boiling for yourself or family, a large pot and a stovetop will do just fine. If you prefer to enjoy the sunshine, put your pot on a fire. Or if you are anything like the resourceful group that I spend time with, build a stove-like contraption with a fire, chimney, and a huge vat, and stand around it for hours while you slowly boil your sap down into syrup.

If you have more sap collected than the pot allows, worry not. As it boils, much of your collection will evaporate, and you can continue to add more as you go. Once it begins to darken and thicken (you’ll know, I promise!), reduce your cook temperature to simmer. If you’re cooking outside, at this point I recommend bringing it in and finishing on the stove. Stir often as it thickens, and as soon as it looks and feels like syrup; you’re done!

A lot of work for a small payout? Perhaps. But after months of running from heated building to heated building, scraping windshields, and shivering, shoulders to ears, having a reason to soak in the sun and enjoy time with friends, is a “reward in itself.”

Make like we do: invite your cronies, have a potluck, pick up a few growlers of Newaygo Brewing microbrews, and shake those winter blues off. I haven’t even mentioned the taste of your homemade syrup, but I promise, you’ll thank me. Your pancakes will never be the same!

Carmen Faulkner

Fall Color Tour Time! 

Fall Color Tour Time! 

Top 5 places (and maybe a few more) to take great Fall color photosFall is my favorite time of year. I love watching the rainbow of colors change from day to day. Science says that water and temperature determine when a tree’s leaves turn colors. I don’t much care for...

Get Your Art On!

Get Your Art On!

This not so summery weather seemed to call for something fun inside today.  Newaygo County, known for its outdoor activities, has plenty of hidden treasures for these occasions.  However, this morning, I was really in for a special treat as I ventured into an...

Fresh From the Farm

Fresh From the Farm

Agriculture has long been a staple of the NewayGo County economy. One reason why Gerber Baby Food put the area on the map was because of its relationship with local farmers.  You’ll see the same focus on agriculture and locally produced fruits and vegetables at...

Local Golf Course Wins National Award

Local Golf Course Wins National Award

Waters Edge Golf Course in Fremont, MI has initiated substantial changes. The entire staff at Waters Edge is excited to announce their Grand Opening of Holes #5 and #6. Ray Hearn, a nationally recognized Golf Course Architect, was hired by Waters Edge to design and...

The Wetland Trail – A Unique Ecosystem

The Wetland Trail – A Unique Ecosystem

 I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog that I work for TrueNorth Community Services, the parent company of Camp Newaygo. Unless people attend one of Camp Newaygo’s public events such as their “Dinners on the Ridge” series this summer (July 20 or August 10) most...

Exploring Newaygo’s Past

Exploring Newaygo’s Past

Growing up, in an area, we often become familiar with local history. It is taught in schools, on field trips, family members talk about "back when...", and traditions are born in recognition of the history. When you're raised in a community, you often become tired of...

Agritourism

Agritourism

I recently heard the term Agricultural Tourism or Agritourism for short, and was immediately intrigued by the idea, that individuals go out of their way to visit areas because of the agriculture. After a little bit of research, I realized that the idea of visiting an...

A Branstrom Park Day

A Branstrom Park Day

I had just bought myself a new pair of waterproof low hiking boots and I needed to try them out. If you live or work in Fremont, or if you’re vacationing in the area and stop there for supplies or to grab something to eat, do yourself a favor and do not overlook...

Our First Hike

Our First Hike

Kelley and I had always dreamed on having a home near water when we retired.  A place where we could sink down solid roots and flourish after many years of working and building a life for our family in the Detroit and the Grand Rapids areas.  So, on weekends we’d go...

About The Author

Carmen Faulkner

Carmen Faulkner is an avid travel enthusiast who grew up in Newaygo County. When she isn’t on the road, she splits her time between her home in Newaygo and the mountains of British Columbia. Her love for all things outdoors is paralleled only to her appreciation of food, coffee, and craft beer. You can find her in our community kayaking down the Muskegon River, hiking the North Country Trail, or enjoying the small businesses of downtown Newaygo.