Maple Syrup—A Closer Look at the Process

VERMONTVILLE—The highlight of the maple syrup festival is all the delicious maple syrup that is prepared for people’s enjoyment. However, few people know how it is prepared. A lot of work is involved with the preparation and gathering of the syrup. Also, many groups benefit from the hard work and determination of the syrup collectors.

Maple syrup is prepared, not by adding sugar like most people think, but by boiling the sap until the water evaporates until only the maple syrup is left. In order to achieve this, syrup producers have to boil the sap at about 29 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water.

Once the sap reaches its sugar content, the amount of syrup from the sap obtained is approximately 67 percent. There isn’t really a set time to gather maple syrup, but around late winter to early spring is the prime time to collect it.

The very process of collecting syrup is a challenge all on its own. First, the trees are tapped with a spout, and sap is collected into a bucket or plastic tube. Not all trees are subject to this, however. Veteran syrup collectors know that only the older, healthier trees are worth tapping. A 40-year-old tree that is about 10 inches in diameter and in good health is not only a good syrup manufacturer, but a required trait, say syrup producers. If these rules are followed, the tree will not be harmed and will continue to produce sap for about 100 more years.

The sap starts to flow when there are freezing nights and warm days. However, long periods of cold snaps can halt the gush of sap but that doesn’t mean it will cease forever. The flow will start again once things have returned to normal. As the sap is flowing, gatherers must boil or evaporate it as soon as possible, because, if not, it won’t be fresh or taste as good as it should.

When the sap is ready to be boiled, it’s brought to a “sugarhouse” where the lengthy process contines. Usually, sugarhouses come equipped with a vent to allow the hot steam to escape. Pans called evaporators that the sap runs through can reach temperatures of about 219 degrees. That’s when the sap becomes maple syrup. On average, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. A valve is then opened in the evaporator and the syrup is filtered, bottled, and distributed.

This is a long process, but to the producers of the Vermontville area, it’s well worth it, and the festival goers don’t complain! However, more help at the festival is always welcome. Those who are able should participate as often as they can so the festival can live on, and so future generations can become part of the experience.

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Michigan Maple Syrup Assocation

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