What can be better than the delicious taste of maple syrup? How about homemade? Making your own maple syrup in your backyard has its rewards. You know exactly where the syrup is coming from, including what type of maple tree. You get to spend time outdoors in the fresh air. Plus, your taste buds will appreciate all the time you spent when that fresh, homemade syrup is poured over a towering stack of pancakes. But where do you begin? What do you need? And most importantly, how much will it cost?
Tapping trees and making your own maple syrup doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive if you know what you’re doing. Written by sugaring expert Rink Mann, Backyard Sugarin’: A Complete How-to Guide, is an invaluable resource that not only provides step-by-step instructions for the beginner but also insider advice on how to be resourceful and save money in the process.
The planning section in this book is quite helpful for the first time sugarer. It’s easy to jump right into something new when you’re excited, but as the old saying goes, it’s always wise to look before you leap (especially when sap is involved). Before gathering the equipment or even finding the trees you’ll use, Mann makes a good point—you need to figure out how much syrup you want to make first. This determines everything: how many trees you’ll need to tap, buckets, and even the amount of storage space you’ll need. In this section, you’ll learn how to calculate the amount of supplies you need for the amount of syrup you’ll be making as well as things to consider before starting.
There’s also a whole section on identifying the different types of maple trees (with illustrations) and how and when to collect the sap. (Remember, tapping trees needs to be done when the temperature during the day reach just above freezing, but at night, it drops below freezing.) Plus, there are plenty of tips Mann offers throughout his book, many stemming from his own experiences, like what to do when your syrup begins to boil over.
Yet, probably the best part about this guide is that Mann offers some unique and frugal suggestions to help you keep your out-of-pocket cost down. (Who doesn’t want to save money?) Cement blocks, milk jugs, even an old lasagna pan – you might be surprised by what you can use during the whole process. The biggest cost saver, though, is knowing how to make your own evaporator (which is how you remove the water from the sap and turn it into syrup). Mann shows 13 different homemade evaporators you can make, ranging in the amounts of syrup it can produce in a season. Along with providing the specifications of each evaporator, there are photos too, so you have an idea what it looks like and its size.
This book is worth reading, especially if you are a first-timer at making maple syrup. It can help save you some unnecessary headaches and give you some ideas that might just make the process go smoother. And even if you have been sugarin’ in your backyard for a while now, you might just discover a crafty way of cutting some of your costs.
Note: Backyard Sugarin’: A Complete How-to Guide is now in its third edition and recently received a new cover. It’s 95 pages long.