maple syrup being drizzled over stack of pancakes with butter

How is Maple Syrup Made 

Sweet, flavorful maple syrup is made by boiling maple sap down until it reaches a syrup consistency. Keep reading to learn more about the process! 

The History of Maple Syrup 

Maple syrup was first produced by indigenous people living in the north-eastern area of North America. European settlers in North America were taught how to tap maple trees by indigenous peoples.

Collecting the sap

Originally, sap was collected by hanging buckets from wooden spouts inserted into holes bored into tree trunks. The sap was transferred into larger holding vessels and transported by horse-drawn sleds or wagons to a central point, where it was boiled down to the correct consistency.

Sometimes sap was boiled over a fire built outside, though some people built shelters called sugar shacks.

There have been many changes in technology over the years. Metal buckets and plastic bags replaced the wooden buckets. Evaporators replaced fires as a more efficient way of concentrating sap into maple syrup. Filtration was added to prevent syrup contamination

Today, Mackinac Bluffs Maple Farms uses plastic tubing and vacuum pumps to bring the sap directly into the ‘Sugar House’ during sugaring season.

Three people in snowy woods tapping maple trees

When does the sap run?

During the annual spring thaw, enzymes change the starch in maple trees to sugar, which mixes with water absorbed through the roots. During these few weeks when cold nights and warm, sunny days have the sap flowing before buds form, the Maple sap is sweet enough to make maple syrup.

barrels of maple syrup

How much sap is needed to make maple syrup?

It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make just 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Which type of maple trees?

The sugar maple, black maple, and red maple are the most common type of maple tree used to produce maple syrup – Mackinac Bluffs Maple Farms uses sugar maples exclusively. Manitoba maple, silver maple, and bigleaf maple can also be used.

Did you know? You can even produce syrup from birch, walnut, and palm trees!

man in blue sweatshirt tapping a maple tree

Does it hurt the trees?

Tapping a maple tree does create a wound, but the trees recover easily. Trees can be tapped for decades without harming the tree or impacting its health.

Depending on the size of the maple tree, it can have 1 -3 taps.

What are the types of maple syrup? Which one should I buy?

In the US we have the following grades:

  • Grade A Golden, Delicate Taste
    A light color, with a light and mild maple flavor. (Previously called Grade A Light Amber.)
  • Grade A Amber, Rich Taste
    A medium color, with a bit more maple flavor. This is the most popular grade for table use. (Previously called Grade A Medium Amber or Grade A Dark Amber).
  • Grade A Dark, Robust Taste:
    A dark color, with a strong maple flavor. This syrup is generally used for cooking and baking. (Previously called Grade A Dark Amber, Grade A Extra Dark, or Grade B)

The grades correspond to the point in the season the syrup was produced. Grade A Golden, Delicate Taste maple syrup uses sap from the earliest point in the season and Grade A Dark, Robust Taste uses sap from the latest point in the season.