Thursday, April 4, 2013

Where Maple Syrup Comes From

As I said in my previous post I was eager to take Brian up on the opportunity to come see how maple syrup is made. So the other day Don, myself, and another friend of his drove to Pinckney to help Brian with his maple syrup operation. 

My first question starting out was "explain in 50 words or less tell me how maple syrup is made." It didn't take 50, it only took three. Basically it's sap, boil, bottle. 

During the late winter, right before maple trees begin to bud, is when their sap is harvested for maple syrup. This happens by inserting a tap into the tree to just below the surface of the bark. A covered metal pail is hung from the tap which collects the sap as it drips out. Each day the buckets need to be emptied, that is what my job was for the day. 

The three of us set out to empty about 150 pails collecting sap from various trees over the woods on the property. Some pails were close to full and some didn't have much sap in them at all. We collected it in a large holding drum where it would await it's next step. 

I learned it takes nearly 45-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. The thing that I found most interesting that sap straight from the tree is very thin, not sticky, and is clear. My only experience with sap is the extremely sticky, thick stuff you see running down the side of trees.  I found out that it becomes sticky and concentrated like this when the moisture evaporates from it.

When we were finished collecting the sap we came back to a batch of syrup in the "sugar shack" that was done.
The liquid sap is placed into this large pans where a wood fire is burning constantly beneath it. This batch took roughly 30 hours to become maple syrup. Like I said multiple gallons of sap are used to make just one gallon of syrup and all this volume is lost through evaporation while boiling. 
 My payment for my day's work was a bottle of maple syrup. Not exactly the bottle that I helped harvest and make but one that I know the exact origins of. 
 This day was fun, active, and above all interesting. I'm glad to say I've seen exactly how maple syrup is made.