It was not that long ago that most people had not only never made their own maple syrup, but had never met someone who made their own maple syrup. But for some reason or another, 2018 has seen surge in people making their own maple syrup. Facebook was filled with pictures of people tapping backyard maple trees. Local parks were offering lessons in tapping trees and if you wanted to take part you had to arrive early to get a parking spot. Next year you probably won’t have to arrive nearly so early as I am predicting a surge of people buying maple syrup in grocery stores in 2019.
I was one of those people who made their own maple syrup this year. I have a good number of mature maple trees around my house and some kids who like maple syrup on their pancakes and waffles, so I bought a tree tapping kit from Amazon and a bunch of 5 gallon buckets and gave it a try. I thought it would be a good activity to show the kids who something they eat is actually made and that we could have a little fun in the process. I was spectacularly wrong on both counts.
It turns out my kids don’t really give a damn where their food comes from or how it is made, just that it tastes good and is on a plate in front of them. It also turns out they are right. When I took them outside to put the taps in it was snowing and windy, and they quickly got cold and bored. They didn’t understand why we needed to stand outside in the cold when you could just pick a bottle of syrup off the shelf in the grocery down the street. I had no counterargument.
When I first tapped the trees I was very excited about how quickly my five gallon buckets started filling up. Then I started boiling the sap. And boiling. And boiling. And then finally arriving at that proud moment when I could pour the homemade maple syrup over my kids’ pancake – only to discover that the syrup was too runny and needed to be boiled off some more.
If you research the making of maple syrup you understand that you will have to boil down the sap to get the syrup, but until you actually go through the process you never really appreciate just how much sap you need to boil down to get a jar of consumable maple syrup. I’ve long since lost track of exactly how much sap I used but I think it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 800 million gallons of sap to get one 375ml jar of syrup.
I did the initial boiling outside on a grill using firewood that I collected myself. If you had to pay for the propane or electricity to do all of the boiling you would be spending more for a bottle of maple syrup than you would for a bottle of Chateau Latour. If there are any maple syrup producers out there who are concerned about a drop in demand from all the people making their own syrup in 2018 they should just relax and raise their prices about 10% in 2019.