April 6, 2015
I tried tapping my Big Leaf Maple trees to make maple syrup this year. I tapped two Big Leaf Maple trunks that were about 14" in diameter with taps I bought on eBay. I put the hose ends into two 2-gallon buckets with tight fitting lids. I drilled a tight fitting hole in the side of the bucket for the hose rather than drilling into the lid so rain would not leak in and dilute my maple sap. After one day I had about a gallon of sap in each bucket. I poured the sap into a canning kettle and started boiling it down on my Coleman camp stove. I had a fan from an old furnace blowing on the surface of the boiling sap to keep the steam blowing away to increase the rate of evaporation. When the volume got down to a couple quarts I moved to the kitchen stove and finished reducing there. The evaporation process took about four hours. I ended up with about four ounces of syrup. The syrup had a mild maple flavor to it. The Big Leaf Maple Syrup flavor was similar to caramel. The pan on the stove had some thick residue that was a lot like caramel after I poured the syrup into a bottle. My syrup was a little runnier than the commercial syrup, maybe I didn't evaporate it as much.
A week later, the two taps had only accumulated a little over a gallon each for a second batch. The second batch I started boiling down on the camp stove, then moved to the wood stove in the house and finished up again on the kitchen stove. The second batch was darker in color. I don't know if this was from the sap or my technique - maybe it got too hot on the wood stove when the one kettle went almost dry. Flavor was again a lot like caramel and the same delicious caramel residue in the pan when I poured out the syrup. Yield was again about four ounces.
September 28, 2017
If you want "perfect" syrup you have to get a bit scientific with it. I always end up overcooking my syrup. I only have a few proper sugar maple trees. In the past I've tried red maple but ended up with almost nothing. But you can also just freeze the sap and save it for a refreshing drink on a hot summer day.
March 16, 2015
Super cool experiment Dubyadee,
I have thought about that, but I don't have maple trees. Maybe people like ReedHedges will help us develop a way to be more productive in those efforts. I have read from independent health experts that true maple syrup is actually good for us instead of sugar, which is obviously terrible for us.
March 16, 2015
I agree, a "Super cool experiment Dubyadee" -- that is amazing! So ...all those who’d told me for years that Oregon’s Big Leaf Maples (of which I had many) ‘couldn’t make maple syrup’ were mistaken Man, even my dad had asked about that.. Had I known at the time, I’d have been on it, too...
But, prior to selling my Oregon homestead and moving east, something had been causing the early death of prime young Big Leaf’s in our area, Yamhill Co. We’d ‘lose the tops,’ then shortly thereafter, the entire tree. I’d turn them into firewood, and let the neighboring cedar or fir take over, but would definitely have tried collecting sap from the bigger ones. Dang ... but thanks for such an amazing and comprehensive report
March 16, 2015
December 30, 2017
There has been bigleaf maple die-off, and no one knows why as of yet. Washington DNR and University of Washington are investigating how bad it is and what could be causing it.
They said that they have found "widespread decline" with no apparent cause determined, so far. Symptoms are "yellow flagging of large branches, small leaf size, yellow and red leaf margins, partial or entire crown dieback, and mortality".
I had to have an 85-foot-tall bigleaf maple cut down this fall. It was healthy and beautiful a few years ago; then I started noticing branch die-back and extremely small leaves, followed by crown die-back. By spring of 2017 it was mostly dead. Fortunately the other bigleaf maples on our property are healthy, and I am hopeful that no others will be lost.
It will be of great interest when the DNR and U of WA discover the cause(s) of this die-off, whether it's pathogens, climate change or other environmental issues, or something else altogether.
For anyone interested in more information, below is a link:
As for maple syrup making, it would be fun to do a taste test of syrup produced from different maples.
March 16, 2015
Thank you GH for the additional info and link on the bigleaf maple die-off. It mirrors what I’d seen, and feared I just sent an email describing my observations, with apparent ‘sapsucker damage’ around the tender ..maybe 6 inch diameter top growth on the younger maples and how that appeared to be the site of first decay.. If nothing else, they could be a vector… I watched their demise intently for a decade or so, as I’d left many as ‘specimen trees’ within, and bordering my former woodland.
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