Maple Syrup FAQ

Tips for Making Maple Syrup Resources & Publications Maple Syrup Festival

Where does maple syrup come from?

  • Maple syrup is the product of the Sugar maple tree (Acer saccharum). It is made from the sap of the tree, which is boiled down to evaporate excess water, leaving behind a sweet syrup.

Can you tap other kinds of trees?

  • You can tap other maple trees (including red, silver, and boxelder), but the sugar content in the sap of other maples is significantly lower than that of a sugar maple so you’ll need a lot more sap to make your syrup. You can also make syrup from other trees including birch, walnut and hickory, but the processes differ slightly for each species.

When do you make maple syrup?

  • The maple syrup season typically runs from mid-March to mid-April, when temperatures are below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.

How much maple syrup do you make in a year?

  • On average, we produce about 250 gallons of maple syrup in a year, although this has varied from a low of 39 gallons (2012) to a high of 560 gallons (1985). The amount of syrup made depends a lot on the number of taps as well as weather conditions that spring.

How much syrup can you get from one tree?

  • In a typical year, one tap will yield approximately ten gallons of sap which will boil down to about one quart of maple syrup.

How much sap do you need to make a gallon of syrup?

  • On average, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. If you know the sugar concentration of your sap (measured with a hydrometer), you can use the “Rule of 86” to determine how much sap will yield a gallon of syrup. The number of gallons of sap needed to produce one gallon of syrup is equal to 86 gallons divided by the sugar concentration of the sap (i.e. 86 gallons divided by 2% concentrated sap equals 43 gallons sap for 1 gallon of syrup).

How big does a tree have to be before it is tapped?

  • Standard practices is to tap sugar maples with a minimum diameter of 12 inches or larger. At Saint John’s we put one tap in trees between 12-18 inches in diameter and two taps in trees with a diameter of 18 inches or larger.

Is maple syrup better for you, nutritionally?

  • Sucrose is the main component of maple sap with minimal concentrations of some minerals and antioxidants. Maple syrup is delicious, but if you are eating it for nutritional value you are eating too much maple syrup!

When did Saint John’s start making maple syrup?

  • Saint John’s began making maple syrup in 1942 in response to sugar shortages during World War II.

Where can I buy Saint John’s Maple Syrup?

  • Saint John’s does not sell the maple syrup. Part of the production goes to Saint John’s Abbey for internal uses and gifts. The remaining syrup goes to Saint John’s Outdoor University where most is distributed to volunteers who help make the syrup. The best way to get Saint John’s Maple Syrup is to volunteer to help make it! Other local maple syrup can be purchased from Wildwood Ranch, just down the road in St. Joseph.

Can I help make Saint John’s Maple Syrup?

  • YES! We rely heavily on volunteers to help us make maple syrup each year. Volunteers can help with all aspects of the operation: tapping, collecting, cooking, working a maple syrup festival, tap removal, bucket washing, and more! We thank our volunteers “sweetly” at the end of the season.

What weather conditions are needed for sap flow?

  • Spring is the best time to tap because we most consistently see temperatures that are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, a fluctuation that is required for maple sap flow.

How many trees does Saint John’s tap?

  • Saint John’s currently puts out around 1500 taps in a season. The fewest number of taps (150) were put out in the inaugural 1942 season. The most number of taps (3700) were installed in 1974.

What is sugar sand?

  • During the boiling process, minerals and other insoluble materials form sediment called “sugar sand” which must be filtered and removed from the final syrup. Sugar sand is mainly made up of calcium malate.

Why are there different colors of syrup?

  • The color of the syrup depends largely on how fast it is cooked. The faster the syrup is made, the lighter the color. If the syrup is cooked slowly, it is a darker shade. Lighter syrup is considered “fancier.”

What are syrup grades?

Where can I buy maple syrup supplies to make my own maple syrup?

  • Maple syrup supplies can often be found at local hardware stores in the spring. We otherwise have a list of regional suppliers on our Resources page.

Where is the sugar shack?

  • The sugar shack is located near the radio tower and Saint John’s Prep School practice fields.

How much wood does it take to make maple syrup?

  • As a rule of thumb, you need about one cord of wood for every 100 taps. Since we know that a single tap typically yields enough sap to make one quart of syrup, one cord of wood will make about 100 quarts, or 25 gallons, of maple syrup. Read "Energetics of Maple Syrup Production" in the spring 2010 issue of Sagatagn Seasons.

Can I cook sap on my stovetop at home?

  • You can cook sap on any heat source. If you do plan to cook in your home kitchen, be sure it is well ventilated! Remember, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, which means that you’ll be evaporating 39 gallons of water for every gallon of syrup you make. That’s a lot of steam! Read more tips for making your own maple syrup.

More questions? Contact us!