I am happy to report that we had an outstanding maple season here in the Adirondacks. We held our breath a few times when the weather would freeze up and hold the freeze for a few days, but it all worked out.
How Maple Syrup Is Made: I am going to put together a short series of blog posts and tell you how we make maple syrup on our farm. I am going to try to keep it simple and not go scientific, but sometimes my forensic background surfaces.
How we go from this?
On our farm in Northern Washington County New York (The Adirondacks), we have approximately 3000 maple trees. We do not tap all the trees, but the ones concentrated in what is commonly called the “Sugarbush”.
All of our tapped trees and connected together we a series of mainline pipe, lateral tubing, a vacuum pump, a releaser and a 1500 gallon stainless steel tank.
The goal is to harvest the sap from the maple trees and to boil the sap and produce maple syrup.
One of the things that increase the success of our maple operation is an unofficial maple cooperative we have with the Grotolli Family. The two families have been working together for 12 years. Mike and Laurie have been great to work with, sharing equipment and knowledge.
A second key to our success was a relationship with the Goodrich Family in Cabot Vermont. Glen and Ruth Goodrich are considered two of the leading producers of maple syrup in the United States. Glen is continually on the leading edge of maple production equipment and education.
Our family was honored to have such great friends and mentors.
Let’s get started. What is Maple Syrup?
Maple Syrup is one of the oldest food products produced in North America. Native Americans discovered that the sap from maple trees was sweet. That started it.
Maple syrup is made by removing water from the raw sap until you have a finished product. The amount of water that has to be removed depends on the sugar content of the sap when harvested.
What is sap?
Maple sap is a raw natural material that is secreted from the wood tissue of the maple tree.
Through the process of photosynthesis, carbohydrates (sugar) which are used as energy for the tree to grow are stored in the tree as food for when the tree is dormant and there are no leaves.
In the late winter and early spring, when the wood temperature in the maples fluctuates below and above freezing the sap flows. The changes in the temperature cause the tree to produce positive and negative pressure which alternate. Negative pressure is created when the temperature drops below freezing, the positive pressure occurs when the temperature rises above freezing. The positive pressure can and will exceed the normal atmospheric pressure.
The tree draws moisture from the ground through the root system highway. Without going scientific, the process causes a minor vacuum and the moisture is drawn up into the tree. With all the frozen moisture in stored in the tree, when the temperature rises above freezing, the tree and its branches begin to thaw, the pressure changes rapidly from negative to positive. The positive pressure causes the sap to flow.
The perfect condition for sap to flow is when temperature drops below freezing at night and rises above freezing during the day. This continued cycle allows the wood fiber around the tap hole to thaw and the liquid is forced out by the positive pressure.
What is tap hole?
The maple tap or spile has evolved over the years, starting with handmade wooden taps to high-tech materials.
We use high impact plastic tap, which only requires a 5/16 hole drilled 1 inch into the tree. Mike tested this style and it turned out to be a good decision.
Many folks ask me, does it damage the tree. Tapholes in healthy trees close in one to two years, depending on the age of the tree and if the hole was drilled the right way for a tight fit for the tap used.
In the next post we will talk about how we harvest the sap and move it the sugarhouse for processing.
Until next the next post…