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How to Make Maple Syrup

Tapping nature's sweetness with This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook and maple sugarmaker James Nielsen

In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook and maple sugarmaker James Nielsen tap maple trees to make maple syrup.


1. Identify a sugar maple tree by tight, brown, pointed buds, and large oval-shaped crown.

2. Drill a slightly upward-angled hole into each maple tree. Position the hole about 3 feet above the ground.

3. Use a hammer to gently tap spile into hole in tree.

4. Hang a sap bucket from the spile or attach a flexible collection tube.

5. Build a homemade sap evaporator by stacking 8-inch x16-inch concrete blocks around a metal smoke stack.

6. Lay a barbecue grate across the blocks, positioning it 16 inches above the ground.

7. Install a second, narrower barbecue grate 8 inches above the first grate.

8. Drill a ⅛-inch-diameter hole into the side of a large metal can. Position the hole just above the can bottom. Place the can onto the upper grate.

9. Set a large roasting pan onto the lower grate.

10. Stack several pieces of kindling and seasoned firewood under the roasting pan. Set the wood on fire.

11. Pour the sap collected from the maple trees into the metal can. Be sure the sap drains from the can into the roasting pan below.

12. Heat the sap to evaporate its water. Add more sap to the warming pan, as needed.

13. Frequently check the temperature of the sap with a candy thermometer. When it reaches 219 degrees F, it converts to maple syrup. It takes approximately 39 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

14. Pour the syrup through cheesecloth, then store in sterilized bottles.