If you didn’t know, it’s maple syrup-making season, or “tapping season” for those in the business. Mitchell and Emmitt Foster, brothers that attend the University of Wisconsin–Stout, make their own homemade maple syrup in their backyard. They talk about how their maple syrup journey began and the process of making this sweet, sticky breakfast condiment.
Emmitt is a senior majoring in engineering technology, a manager at the Merle Price Commons and a member of the water-skiing team. Mitchell is a junior majoring in business administration, also a manager at the Merle Price Commons and was involved in the entrepreneur student org at Stout.
“We’ve been making maple syrup for either seven or eight years now, and some seasons we make more syrup than others,” said Mitchell. The duo taps about 50 to 100 trees per season, but are shooting for 150 trees this season.
“Early spring is when the season starts, but we always miss it because it’s during spring break. They say once you hear the frogs and crickets start coming back, the season is over,” said Emmitt.
The Foster brothers are able to pursue their hobby in their very own backyard. “When we first moved in, we looked at the trees outside and noticed that they were maples. We talked to our landlord to see if we could tap these trees, and he let us do it,” said Emmitt. The brothers also mentioned that their landlord’s brother also makes his own maple syrup, tapping about 6,000 trees every season.
Once the creation process is over, they use a spigot to bottle their syrup. Surprisingly, the brothers said it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Emmitt added that there are different types of maple trees and that each tree has a different flavor. The flavor also changes based on how you boil the sap down. “Because we boil our sap on a wooden stove, there’s more of a smoky flavor in our syrup,” said Mitchell.
These brothers were introduced to the maple syrup business by their father, and they mentioned that they wouldn’t be doing this today without him. They give their delicious maple syrup out for free, but make sure to leave enough for family and friends.
“We always discuss selling our maple syrup, but we never truly commit to it. I think it’s a neat hobby that we picked up, and who knows, maybe we’ll sell it in the future,” said Emmitt.
So how is this gooey, sticky homemade maple syrup actually made?
- Find a tree(s) during the summer months and mark it.
- Drill holes, pound in the taps and hang a bucket to catch your reward.
- Cool your collected sap.
- Boil the sap until the consistency looks like syrup.
- Use a sugaring hydrometer to measure the sugar content.
NOTE: It has to be above freezing during the day and below freezing at night in order for the sap to flow.