Syrup Season

Spring is coming! As we start to experience above-freezing temperatures during the day and below-freezing temperatures at night, a pressure differential begins to build in trees. Sap being stored below ground begins to move upward within the sapwood layer of the tree. This is the ideal time to collect sap and make syrup!

You can make syrup from any tree in the Acer family, which includes sugar maples, silver maples, and box elders. Sugar maples contain the highest concentration of sugar in their sap, allowing for the most efficient method of syrup-making at a 40:1 ratio (it takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make 1 gallon of syrup). Box elders would yield a 60:1 ratio, leading to longer cooking times.

Without leaves on the trees, you need to look at the bark and twigs of your trees to determine if you have sugar maples. Buds will be dark red and very pointy (see below). Click here for an online winter tree ID guide from the Champaign County Forest Preserves. Trees that can be tapped for sap collection must be at least 12 inches in diameter (at chest height) and be healthy. Read on for some basic tapping instructions.

Materials needed:
-Drill with 7/16" or 3/8" bit
-Spiles and hook
-Collection containers (plastic buckets, milk jugs, coffee cans, or stainless steel pails work well)

Tapping Instructions:
1. Before beginning, all tapping equipment should be cleaned with a bleach solution.
2. Where to tap on tree: about 3 feet off the ground. Don't tap within 6 inches of a previous tap hole. 
3. Drill a hole 2-2.5 inches deep at a slight upward angle to help with downward flow of sap from the hole.
4. Attach bucket hook to spile, then insert spile into tap hole. GENTLY tap spile into hole with hammer.
5. Hang bucket on spile hook and attach lid if you have one.

Sap Collecting Instructions:
1. On sunny days that are above freezing (with corresponding below freezing nights), sap will probably flow. Pour sap from sap bucket into a clean collection container. Important to check buckets daily.
2. If not cooking right away, sap needs to be stored in a food-safe container in a cold location (38 degrees or colder). It will spoil if not kept cold. You can filter the sap through cheesecloth to remove impurities at this point.

Cooking Instructions: Click  here for detailed instructions on how to turn clear maple sap into delicious maple syrup! Hint: plan on doing it outdoors. Large quantities of steam are produced, wallpaper has been known to peel. Or plan on doing very small batches with good ventilation.

For more information on maple syrup in McHenry County, you can attend the McHenry County Conservation District's Festival of the Sugar Maples event at Coral Woods Conservation Area in Marengo the first two weekends in March. Fun for the whole family!

Remember to spread the word to your neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family about Conservation@Home! Also, invite us to present to your business, community group, municipality, etc. Email 

Featured C@H Property: The Haisler Family

Meet the Haisler family. They have lived on their 1-acre property in Prairie Grove for 8 years. Their reason for participating in C@H is because, " It helps remind us that we are just stewards of the property and our planet in general.  We live on this plot of land for but a blink of an eye and yet we have the potential to ruin it forever.   We may 'own' this land today but it really isn't ours to destroy.   We each must do our part to conserve and preserve our corner of the world so that together we all protect the planet." They hope to add more plants to their rain garden and advice homeowners to come up with a practical use for their rain barrel water, like watering flower gardens or vegetable beds. Thanks for your inpiring words, Haisler family!

The Land Conservancy of McHenry County | Sarah Michehl | 
815-337-9502 | 
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