How We Make It

How to Make Maple Syrup

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 get tapped once each year when making our unique maple syrup.  Tapping involves drilling a small hole, about .3” in diameter by 2.5” deep into the maple tree.  Then a tiny plastic spout is “tapped” in with a plastic mallet, which is connected by a small length of tubing into the central tubing system running tree to tree in the maple grove farms.  We tap our trees while the woods are still frozen and try to have all our maple trees tapped by no later than the 3rd week of January.  At the end of the maple syrup 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 sugar maple tree.

3. What Makes the Sap Run?

The maple 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 regular 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 the tree sap down and out the tap hole we made in the tree and into the sap bucket. 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 maple sap to run again. On a good day, you will get approximately 1 gallon of raw maple sap per tree, and this sap contains about 1.5-2.5% sugar maple.  In our area of NY, the maple sap on the maple farm generally runs somewhere between January and April, and for about six weeks once it begins.

4. Gathering the Sap

The sap flow runs down the lines into big stainless-steel tanks in the woods.  We pump the sap into tanks on trucks and deliver them back to the sugarhouse to be converted into pure maple syrup.  Once at the sugarhouse on the farm, 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 reverse osmosis machine.  This machine pumps the maple sap through special membranes under high pressure, and then 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 while the concentrated sap is pumped into a refrigerated tank and then fed into the evaporator.

6. Boiling in the Evaporator

The evaporator is where the syrup is made.  The concentrated sap is fed into the maple syrup evaporator continuously, and heated to a boil.  This causes the water to be evaporated out of the fresh sap, and the boiling sap gets more and more concentrated as it passes through the evaporator.  Through this journey on the maple farms, the final maple flavor and color of the syrup get developed until the finished syrup 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. This removes any sediment that might exist and deposits it into clean, stainless steel drums where the finished maple syrup can be indefinitely kept until it is needed.

8. Bottling

The homemade maple syrup is pumped from the stainless-steel drum into a stainless-steel tank. The maple syrup is heated back up to approximately 190 degrees Fahrenheit and then used to fill bottles and jugs for heading out to our customers.

MAPLE FAQ's

What is maple syrup?

The process of maple syrup production is harvesting the sweet 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 maple product has an amazingly unique flavor, smell, and of course, taste. Regular maple syrup can be used in multiple recipes, like sweet potato casserole, maple taffy, maple bacon, cake, maple candy, a coffee sweetener, or a topping with butter on your favorite delicious pancakes, waffles, or french toast breakfast. You can even use a maple syrup substitute in baked goods recipes instead of corn syrup, raw honey, or molasses. Maple syrup can also be used to make maple cream, ice cream or caramel or combined with white sugar, or granulated sugar, to create brown sugar substitute.

What is the shelf life of maple syrup?

Real maple syrup can last almost indefinitely when stored correctly.  We recommend an 18-month shelf life for an unopened container of simple syrup, pancake syrup, coffee flavoring syrup, flavored syrup, or maple sugar.  When unopened, there are no special storage conditions.  An opened container should be refrigerated since an opened maple syrup container could develop some mold over a long time if kept unrefrigerated.

Is the maple syrup organic?

Maple syrup made naturally is as close to organic as any natural process can be.  It also has the benefit of being vegan and gluten-free, since it comes directly from trees. However, being certified organic like Finding Home Farms maple syrup, requires quite a bit of additional controls that conventional maple syrup may or may not have.  We have an annual on-site inspection that has multiple components.  We get evaluated for cleanliness and the presence of any unapproved cleaning or processing chemicals.  We get assessed on the accuracy of our record keeping. We 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 homemade syrup the maple sap goes into, to which customers buy those bottles of delicious syrup and natural sweetener.  Finally, we head out to the woods to ensure our forestry practices are sound and within organic practices. Our remote locations are clean, covered, and up to organic standards, with no artificial flavors, to create our best maple syrup.

Is maple syrup 100% pure?

Yes.  There is no added sugar to make our pure maple syrup; it is not imitation maple syrup or artificial maple extract like some places.  For our own maple syrup recipe process, we remove the water, first through filtration, and then boil the sap to evaporate the water and develop the caramel color and strong maple flavor of the syrup.  The finished product is 67% sugar, and the ingredient 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 natural maple flavor.  The maple syrup grade color can range from golden syrup, medium amber, to dark brown. Maple syrup producers do not control the Grade. The outcome is mainly dictated by the weather outside (the warmer the weather, the darker the syrup), among a few other factors.  Maple syrup’s grading system changed a few years back, from Grade A syrup and Grade B maple syrup to all Grade A with different descriptions.  The maple syrup grades now are:

  • Grade A, golden color, delicate taste
  • Grade A, amber color, rich taste
  • Grade A, dark syrup color, robust flavor (where the former Grade B is now)
  • Grade A, darker syrup color, robust taste
  • Processing grade

The vast majority of syrup made will be either Grade A amber rich or Grade A dark amber 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.