Maple sugaring season is on! It’s time to take your car and leave the city to honored the annual ritual; crowding around a large table with friends and family to eat eggs, potatoes and bacon flooded in syrup!

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, P68, P173. Public domain. Woman driving a sleigh to harvest maple sap, 1910

Maple water

With this rite of early spring, a fearly-new product has emerged: Maple water (or Sap water). Where to get it? It now possible to buy this delectable beverage in most grocery stores during sugaring season. But between you and me, the best is to tap maple trees, if you have some in your yard. Nothing better than earring the dripping sound on the metal of the pan, during a sunny afternoon while the snow melting. 

You never tapped maple trees before? It’s easy and no need to have plenty! Only 2 or 3 can be good enough to get an harvest of maple sap and a few jars of syrup!  

Recognizing sugar maples

The easiest way to differentiate a sugar maple tree it is with its foliage. In spring, when there is no leaf we need to go with other ways to identify them. 

Sugar maple: The leaves of sugar maples have three lobes like the drawings below, separated by spaces in spaces of ”U”. Its bark is smooth, sap is clear as water and its buds are brown. This is the leaf on the Canadian flag.

Acer platanoides or Norway maple: The leaves have five lobes instead of three. It’s an ornemental tree native of Europe. It has a milky sap sometimes mixed, in small quantity, to the sugar maple sap to make syrup.

Red maple: The leaves have a ‘’V” shape and lobes are toothed. It’s a tree found mainly in United States. Buds are red and it sap is sometime used to make syrup but contains less sugar than sugar maple sap. You need to collect a greater quantity of water to produce 1L syrup.

« Print maple leaves » by Mathilde Cinq-Mars Illustration. (photo credit: Mathilde Cinq-Mars Illustration)

There is also black maple, near the sugar maple but rare in Quebec, and silver maple that has a sap with an even lower sugar content than red maple. So the ideal remains really the sugar maple.

How to tap trees?

You will need: 

  1. A drill with a 7/16 inches bit

  2. A hammer

  3. Spiles (blowtorches with hooks to hang seals) can be found in a farming cooperative or on Kijiji and LesPacs

  4. Metal buckets with lids to harvest maple sap

Tap maple tree (photo credit: royalty free)

Tapping trees is done in March when temperature starts to raise. Temperature needs to be around 4 to 7 degrees Celsius (around 39 to 44°F) during daytime and minus zero during nighttime so that the combined action of frost and mild weather will bring out the sap.

To tap a tree, you need to make a hole of approximately two inches deep at three to four foot from the ground, on side facing the sun. 

Once the hole is drilled, you insert the spile with a hammer, put the bucket in place and you wait! Warning: bucket need a lid to prevent the rain and snow to mix with sap.

The sugary season comes to an end when the maple sap starts to get darker and when you start to see moths. This is an indicator that the season is over.

How to do maple syrup at home

You need about 40 liters of maple sap to get 1 liter of maple syrup. In a large saucepan, reduce the sap until you get a syrup. First, you need to ensure that the sap does not contain any impurities and you leave it simmer over medium heat. It’s a long process; perfect for a weekend activity! Warning: it is better to have some ventilation since the process can leave sticky residue. Maple syrup is ready when liquid reaches a temperature of 104°C (219°F) on the candy thermometer. At this stage, you need to closely watch the liquid to ensure it won’t overflow, change into sugar (112°C) and freeze in the pan.

Maple syrup on snow (photo credit: royalty free)

Incorporating sap to your recipes

Maple sap can be drank as is, it’s really refreshing and slightly sweet. You can also use it to cook meat, to make sauces, to add to your smoothies, to make your morning oat, or freeze it and make ice cubes for your cocktails!



– There is maple syrup in the composition of the parfume Ralph Hot by Ralph Lauren!

– Although maple syrup is a type of sugar, it contains abscisic acid known for its therapeutic properties good for diabetics.

Amélie Masson-Labonté

Amélie Masson-Labonté is a specialist of cultural history, culinary traditions and seasonal celebrations. With her company Storica, she invests time in projects relating to food and heritage. With specialties such as cultural heritage, seasonal celebrations, public market and slow food, Amélie was a collaborator we needed to have for Au bout du rang’ blog.

To discover Storica’ product line and services, here’s her website: