Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tap My Trees ~ Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets ~ A Crew Review

Tap My Trees, Maple Sugaring Supplies

Arlene and I are beginning a new adventure ~ maple sugaring! Tap My Trees sent their Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets for us to review as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. We have known for a long time that there are successful maple sugaring operations all over our state of Indiana, as we've often seen email blasts about Maple Syrup festivals in the late Winter months. When we were up at the Indiana Dunes a few years ago we saw some of the equipment that they use to process their maple sap during their festival. But, this is the first time that we have had the opportunity to try it ourselves! Who doesn't like some maple syrup on their waffles?!

The first thing you need is an appropriate maple tree (Sugar, Black, Red, or Silver,) or a Birch or Walnut tree. Then you need some equipment, and some know-how! We are fortunate to have a mature maple tree in our front yard, and another one that straddles the property line in our back yard. I haven't had a chance to talk with our neighbors yet about the one in the back yard, but hopefully they won't mind us tapping it too so we can use all three buckets that came in our Starter Kit. This kit had everything we need to tap our trees, except the drill! It included three aluminum buckets and lids for collecting sap, three spiles to tap the trees with, hooks for attaching the lids (to keep out debris and curious squirrels,) a drill bit to make the correct size holes, cheesecloth for straining the sap, and most importantly~ the Maple Sugaring at Home book ~ full of the know-how we need!

Don't let the small size (of about 40 pages) of Maple Sugaring at Home fool you ~ this book has a plethora of information! It begins by introducing the equipment you will need to have your own maple sugaring operation, and helps you identify your trees. It is much easier to identify your trees before the leaves fall, but it CAN still be done in the winter . . . it just takes more effort. Since we already knew we had maple trees, we just needed to identify which kinds they were. If you're wanting to tap your own trees this winter, go look at the bark, and look under the tree to see if there are still leaves that had been shed last fall underneath that can help you identify your tree. 

Tap My Trees, Maple Sugaring Supplies

In the book you will also learn that the tree's diameter determines how many taps you can put in each tree. Arlene still had her tree diameter measuring stick that she made at the State Fair a couple years ago, so we used it to check on the tree in our front yard. It is large enough to support two taps. In our area of Indiana, most maple sugaring occurs in February and March. We feel fortunate to have had time to study the process and the equipment this past month or so, and are almost ready to go tap our trees! If you're just now purchasing your supplies, set aside a whole day to study the book and equipment.

The Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets came neatly packaged all together, and for once, we waited until Dad got home before opening it! The buckets seem huge at first, but when you realize that each tap might produce between 5 and 15 gallons of sap in under two months, you're going to want the buckets to err on the big side. Since we are fortunate to have our trees so close to our house, we should be able to collect the sap everyday. After reading the book, we were reminded of just how much sap it takes to make maple syrup. In order to store up that sap until we have a large amount, I requested a couple of food-grade buckets from our local bakery. We have cleaned them, and will rinse them out again with boiling water before storing the sap in them. We plan to put them in our extra fridge, but the book does give instructions on how to store extra sap in containers in a snow pack outside if necessary. 

Since the sap needs to be used within 7 days of collecting, we plan to boil it at least once every week, probably twice a week. Since it takes about 10 gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup, that's a lot of boiling! We might try some of the other ideas Tap My Trees gives for using the maple sugar sap. Arlene wants to try baking with it, and I just want to see what it tastes like.

Tap My Trees, Maple Sugaring Supplies

This upcoming weekend is forecast to be in the low 40's during the day, and the 20's at night ~ perfect weather to put in our taps! I'll be sure to come back later in the season and let you know how our newest adventure is going!

Since Arlene is going to be my partner in this adventure, she has been studying the book and the equipment too. Here is her summary:

Tap my trees is a fun way of learning about maple syrup at home. Before this I always though you had to have a forest of maple trees and lots of buckets to make your own maple syrup. Now I know that you can do it right at home. The kit has three buckets which is nice because we live on the edge of a city, and like most people living in or around a city, we do not have a forest of maple trees. The book that comes with the kit is very helpful it tells you what is in the kit, how to use it, descriptions of the different kinds of maple trees and where they grow, how to store your sap and syrup, how to turn sap into syrup and even other uses for sap besides just boiling it for syrup.

I am impressed by the quality of the equipment included in the Starter Kit. I look forward to following the directions on how to complete the whole process start to finish at home. I appreciate the candor with which they tell you to clean the equipment, use it, and clean it again before storing it for use again next year. These aluminum buckets should be fairly easy to clean, and the way that the other pieces of equipment nest together should make storage simple. We hope to use it for several years.

Several other families from the Crew are also reviewing this Starter Kit from Tap My TreesSome of them live further South than us and have already collected some sap from their trees. Click on the banner below to read all the reviews. This could turn into an adventure for the whole family!

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Tap My Trees Review

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  1. I can't wait to hear how it goes. I had no idea it took SO MUCH sap to make syrup!

  2. I love to hear how high quality the stuff is! That's usually a down point in kits, but this sounds good. Too bad we don't have the environment for it here.