If you've always wanted to learn how to make your own maple syrup, you just need to drive south of the Northland to take advantage of free classes through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The Minnesota DNR has several opportunities throughout the month of March to learn all about maple syruping, but sessions can fill up fast so you'll want to register now.

According to the DNR, maple sap runs best when daytime temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s and overnight temperatures are below freezing. This cycle of above-freezing days and below-freezing nights needs to continue for several days, although nature occasionally has been known to provide a good run under less perfect conditions.

While those conditions aren't prevalent yet in the Northland, they are in other parts of the state. The DNR says that in Minnesota, sap usually runs from about March 15 to April 20.

There are still plenty of Maple Syrup Making for the Whole Family classes with room for you to register for. They are held at Whitewater State Park, which is just southeast of Minneapolis. You can see all available classes through the button above. The final class is Saturday, March 26.

Once harvested from trees, sap is converted to syrup by boiling. Most of the water boils out of the sap, leaving behind the sugar and the flavor. It usually takes 30-40 gallons of sugar maple sap to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup.

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If you want to try it at home, the DNR says you'll need the following tools:

  • Drill (brace) with 7/16" or 3/8" drill bit
  • Hammer
  • Assorted containers to collect sap. Covered containers are best, to keep debris out. Plastic buckets, milk jugs, and coffee cans work well
  • Large pan for boiling, preferably low and broad. A pan with a large surface area will increase the rate of evaporation during the boiling process
  • Candy thermometer
  • Wool felt or cheesecloth filter material
  • Spiles or tapping spouts. You can make your own spiles from ½ inch wooden dowels cut into three inch lengths. Drill a 1/8 inch hole through the center of each dowel. Taper at one end so the spile will fit snugly into the tree tap hole. Notch the top of the wide end of the spile to support the sap collection container.

I love fresh maple syrup, but I've never made myself. Perhaps this is the year to try something new!

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