Windswept Maples Farm
The process used to make maple syrup actually starts in late fall and early winter. During this time we work on splitting and cutting wood to fill our sugarhouse. This wood will be used during the season to fuel the evaporator.
Throughout the winter months tubing lines are strung in the woods. These lines help us to collect the sap faster, so we don't have to go from tree to tree like they did in the old days. A few weeks before the sap starts to run we put collection tanks and old-fashioned buckets throughout our sugar orchard. After everything is set up we wait for the sap to start running.
Sap, the liquid that is taken from maple trees and boiled down into maple syrup, runs from the maple trees during March when the nights have freezing temperatures and the days are sunny and warm. The sap from our 5000 taps flow from the trees into the tubing and then into our larger main lines that end at collection tanks. We then gather the sap from the tanks and buckets using a tractor and gathering tank.
Once the sap is delivered to our sugarhouse, it is stored in a tank where it is fed through a reverse osmosis machine, or R.O. This machine acts like a large filter, squeezing out some of the water in the sap. On average, the sap collected from most maple trees is about 2.5% sugar. After removing some of the water in the sap with the R.O., the sugar percentage can climb to 10% or more. Normally it takes about forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. With the reverse osmosis machine we are able to reduce that number so that it only takes about fifteen gallons of concentrated sap to produce one gallon of syrup. In our operation the sap leaves the R.O. and then waits in another tank to enter the evaporator.
Once the sap is in the evaporator it weaves through a series of pipes that are part of what is called a preheater. The preheater warms the sap so that it is not cold when it enters the area over the fire. Once the sap leaves the preheater it enters the cooking pan. This pan is located over a large wood stove where we continually burn wood to cook the syrup in the pan. While there, the heat from the fire underneath the pan boils the sap, turning the water to steam and leaving the sugars in the pan. As the water evaporates (this is why the machine is called an evaporator) it leaves the building through an opening in the roof. This process continues until the sugars in the pan reach a certain density. This density occurs when the temperature in the syrup reaches 7 degrees above the boiling point of water. At this time the syrup is drawn off, and fed through a filter. It is then put in a canning tank ready to be canned into containers, or sent straight into a large drum for use later in the year.