How It's Made
1. Setting Up the Woods
The romantic view of galvanized buckets on trees is no longer the way it is done. In fact, it has been determined that metal buckets are not the best way to gather sap. We now use food-grade plastic tubing lines that run tree to tree in the woods, in a closed system that links all the trees together in a vast network that runs to the bottom of the hill into covered stainless-steel tanks.
2. Tapping the Trees
The trees are tapped once each year. Tapping involves drilling a small hole, about .3” in diameter by 2.5” deep into the maple tree. Then a small plastic spout is “tapped” in with a plastic mallet, which is connected by a small length of tubing into the main tubing system running tree to tree in the woods. We tap our trees while the woods are still frozen and try to have all our trees tapped by no later than the 3rd week of January. At the end of the season, in early April, we go around to each tree and remove the spout so that the tree can heal. We use a clean spout each season, tapped in a new location on each tree.
3. What Makes the Sap Run?
The sap runs once the temperature begins to warm up above freezing. When it is cold, below freezing, the pressure in the tree falls. This allows water from the soil combined with sugar stored in the roots to form sap and be sucked up into the tree. When it is above freezing the sap swells, building pressure in the tree, forcing it down and out the tap hole we made in the tree. If it doesn’t freeze for a day or two, the pressure gradually goes away and the sap stops running. It needs to freeze and thaw again to create the conditions for the sap to run again. On a good day, you will get approximately 1 gallon of raw sap per tree, and this sap contains about 1.5-2.5% sugar. In our area of NY, the sap generally runs somewhere between January and April, and for about 6 weeks once it begins.
4. Gathering the Sap
The sap runs down the lines into big stainless-steel tanks in the woods. We pump the sap into tanks on trucks and deliver it back to the sugarhouse to be converted into syrup. Once at the sugarhouse, we pump the sap through a filter into storage tanks.
5. Reverse Osmosis
At the sugarhouse, the sap is pumped from the storage tanks through a machine called a reverse osmosis machine. This machine pumps the sap through special membranes under high pressure, and the some of the water gets passed through the membrane allowing the sap’s sugar content to get concentrated up to 15-20%. The water is saved to clean the equipment with while the concentrated sap is pumped into a refrigerated tank to be fed from there into the evaporator.
6. Boiling in the Evaporator
The evaporator is where the syrup is made. The concentrated sap is fed into the machine continuously, where it is heated to a boil. This causes the water to be evaporated out of the sap and the sap gets more and more concentrated as is passes from the back to the front of the evaporator. Through this journey, the final flavor and color of the syrup gets developed until it reaches enough sugar concentration (67%) to become certified organic maple syrup.
7. Filtering and Storage
While the syrup is still hot (> 200 degrees Fahrenheit), it is pumped through a machine called a filter press, which removes any sediment that might exist and then into clean, stainless steel drums where it can be kept indefinitely until it is needed.
The syrup is pumped from the stainless-steel drum into a stainless-steel tank, where it is heated back up to approximately 190 degrees Fahrenheit, and then used to fill bottles and jugs for heading out to our customers.
What is maple syrup?
Maple syrup is the product of harvesting the sap from the maple tree and cooking it while the water is evaporating out of it, until it reaches 67% sugar. It is pure, nothing gets added to it and the finished product has an amazingly unique flavor, smell and of course, taste.
What is the shelf life of maple syrup?
Maple syrup can last almost indefinitely when stored correctly. We recommend an 18 month shelf life for an unopened container of syrup. When unopened, there are no special storage conditions. An opened container should be kept refrigerated as an opened maple syrup container could develop some mold over a long period of time if kept unrefrigerated.
Is the maple syrup organic?
Maple syrup made naturally is as close to organic as any natural process can be. However, being certified organic like Finding Home Farms maple syrup is, requires quite a bit of additional controls that a conventional maple syrup may or may not have. We have an annual on site inspection that has multiple components. We are evaluated for cleanliness and for the presence of any unapproved cleaning or processing chemicals. We are evaluated for the accuracy of our record keeping and need to be able to track from the day we gathered the sap to what drum of syrup that sap made, to which bottles of syrup that sap’s syrup goes into, to which customers buy those bottles of syrup. Finally, we head out to the woods to make certain our forestry practices are sound and within organic practices and that our remote locations are clean, covered and up to organic standards.
Is maple syrup 100% pure?
Yes. Nothing is added to make maple syrup. We simply remove the water, first through filtration and then through boiling the sap to evaporate the water and develop the color and flavor of the syrup. The finished product is 67% sugar and the balance is mostly water with some trace minerals, vitamins and natural plant compounds remaining in small quantities.
What grade is the maple syrup / how is it graded?
Maple syrup is graded based upon its color, which corresponds with its flavor. Maple producers do not control the grade, it is an outcome that is largely dictated by the weather outside (the warmer the weather, the darker the syrup typically) along with a few other factors. Maple syrup’s grading system changed a few years back, from Grade A and B to all Grade A with different descriptions. The Grades of Maple syrup now are:
- Grade A, golden color, delicate taste,
- Grade A, amber color, rich taste
- Grade A, dark color, robust taste (where the former Grade B now is)
- Grade A, Very dark color, strong taste
- Processing grade
The vast majority of syrup made will be either Grade A amber rich or Grade A dark robust.
When is the maple season?
The maple season occurs in late winter into early spring. Where we are, our season starts around the end of January/early February and continues typically until the end of March/first week of April.