How Real Maple Syrup is made
Maple Syrup begins as sap in a maple tree. The sap is havested 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. Maple trees may grow in different parts of the county, but no where are there more than New England. Here, the climate is just about perfect for the trees to grow.
The sugaring season, as it is called, begins in late February in Southern New England and ends in late April in the North Country. The season usually lasts about a month, 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 feirce.
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!
Syrup produced at the beginning of the season is typically lighter in
color and sweeter tasting. That maple flavor is not very strong, but is
present. This syrup is called 'light' or light amber. As the season
progresses, the syrup becomes darker in color and the maple flavor
becomes stronger. It first becomes medium amber, then dark amber.
After dark amber it becomes 'grade b' syrup, so called because it is not
top quality in color. However, many maple syrup afficionados prefer
grade b syrup for its wonderful maple flavor. It should be noted that
all syrup is equally sweet, however, as the maple flavor gets stronger,
it tastes less sweet.
Heath Benefits of Real Maple Syrup
Believe it or not, maple syrup is a very healthy food. Here are some of the ways that real maple syrup is actually healthy for you:
- It is a 100% natural, whole organic food. There is no way to alter it
- Maple Sugar is three times as sweet as cane sugar, AND it has few calories!
- Maple Sugar is 100% pure. No reduction, processing or removal of anything
- Maple Syrup contains manganese and zinc, natural antioxidents which are good for your immune system, male reproductive systems and helps prevent damage to the heart.
These are only a few ways in which Maple Syrup is actually healthy for you