Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Maple Syrup - How It Is Made

Maple Syrup begins as sap in a maple tree. The sap is harvested in the spring when temperatures rise into the 40s during the day and cool off into the 20s at night. It takes a very special place for the conditions to be just right.

The sugaring season, as it is called, can begin as early as late January in Southern Kentucky and ends in late March. The season usually lasts about a month whenever it begins, but it can be extended if the weather is right.

Trees are tapped using a drill to make a small hole. A spile is inserted into the hole and the sap drips out if conditions are right. The sap either drips into a bucket or flows down a special tube to a holding tank. Drop after drop collect until there are gallons upon gallons of sap. Many gallons of sap are needed to make just one gallon of maple syrup. It can range from 35-50 gallons of sap, depending on how much maple sugar there is in the sap. All maple syrup has the same amount of maple sugar, but the maple flavor can be different as we shall learn.

The sap is collected into a large holding tank and from there is fed into the sugar house (the place where the magic happens!). In the sugar house, it is systematically poured into an evaporator (pictured here). Maple sugar evaporators are specially designed to 'boil off' hundreds of gallons of water very quickly and so the sap is concentrated into maple syrup. This is called 'boiling down'.

The evaporator works by first 'pre-heating' the sap so that it is almost boiling. This is done by making use of the steam that is already coming off of the evaporator. A series of pipes works the cold sap through the hot steam under the hood at the rear of the evaporator. The rear portion of the evaporator is where most of the serious boiling takes place. There are groves in the pan that drop down into the heat source below (fire, oil or otherwise). These give the pan more surface area and so the boiling is more fierce.

As the water is boiled off and the sugar becomes more concentrated, the sap moves toward the front of the pan. There, the sap becomes syrup and is 'drawn off' into a pail or some other container before it is filtered. The syrup at this point contains nitre or sugar sand. This needs to be removed from the syrup or it will have an off taste.

Once filtered, the syrup is put in bottles or containers and sealed until someone opens it up to enjoy a sweet treat!

In early January we will start to watch the weather and take a trip out to the farm for anyone interested in seeing full process. We have just received another, and probably our last, shipment of maple syrup until the new syrup is harvested. We have both Grades A and B in stock in quarts and half gallons.  Buying local maple syrup is an excellent way to add a whole food to your diet and also support local farming.  Eat Local!


  1. Just picked up my maple syrup today! (I bought it last week and forgot to put it into my bag.)

    Looking forward to trying it and please count me in when it's time to go see the farm. I think that would be a great thing for my children to see.

  2. oh what a great thing to see in progress...we just might have to come out there. we have visited some places in canada and loved every minute of it.