In New Jersey, maple sap begins to flow in early February when the nights fall below freezing and the days warm to above freezing. During this time you may also see icicles, a sign of sugaring weather. Generally, the season lasts three to four weeks followed by spring.
You can make syrup from the sap of any maple tree, but sugar maple Acer saccharum produces sap with the greatest sugar content—up to 2%. Other maple trees have 1% or less of sugar. The sap is boiled in an evaporator, a special stove used for making maple syrup. The syrup is done when the sugar content is 67%.
Five Steps to Syrup
1. Tap a maple tree that is at least 10” in diameter. Tap on the sunny south side of the tree.
2. Hang a bucket by hammering a spile with an attached hook into the hole.
3. Collect the sap as soon as possible so it can be processed before it spoils.
4. Boil sap until it is reduced from 2% sugar and 98% water to 67% sugar and 33% water.
5. Bottle and enjoy the finished syrup.
Maple Syrup Grades
The grading system for syrup was established by the USDA based on color.