There Is More To Syrup Than What Comes Out Of The Bottle!

Tap in Tree with Sap Dripping

Sugaring, the first harvest of the year.  Amazing stuff really:  Drill hole in tree, insert tap… CAREFULLY, place bucket under tap, boil contents of bucket, enjoy the fruits of your labor!

The harvest this year started great, but eventually slowed to a dead stop. we are now seeing a bit more action, but nothing like we did at the start of this season.  overall we are down about 30% of our total production… not where we wanted to be as we contemplate next year and possibly not sugaring…

Buckets in Wood

As you have no doubt gathered (pun intended) this is not an easy hobby.  The above picture shows a small number of our buckets placed out in the woods.  Generally they do have to be checked everyday.  Is the tap loose? Do we need to collect? Do the taps leak?

Taps leak?  Remember we said that the taps need to be placed in the tree CAREFULLY.  If you think of the tap as a nail and pound it into the tree as hard as you can, you will crack the cambium layer of the tree and all your sap will leak out of the tree, above and below your tap.  Instead, you need to think of it as nailing a feather into the tree.  Light taps, listening as you go.  The tap and tree will let you know when you have gone far enough.  Huh? yup there the tap will make a rather high pitched noise before it is “seated” when it is seated correctly this noise changes to a more solid/dead ring.  Sounds crazy, but its true, they do tell you when to stop. As you dump buckets, they may loosen a bit, simply re-seat them but it is one of those constant maintenance elements of the job.

Seating the tap is also important because you can either do a small amount of damage to a tree or a HUGE amount of damage.  If you simply drill a 5/16′ hole and seat your tap you may wind up with dead wood 3″above and below your hone and 2″ in. If you break the cambium, you are looking at damage 6″ or more above and below the hole.  If you want to tap your trees forever you need to make sure you limit the damage done.

Mother Natures Reverse Osmosis

With sugaring today, many of the HUGE producers do not want to stand in front of their mammoth evaporators all day and night boiling their thousands of gallons.  As a result, they utilize a filter called a reverse osmosis filter.  The sugar maker can  actually program this device to let molecules of a certain size pass through the diaphragm forcing the larger, sugar molecules to stay behind.  The water is actually waste and the now concentrated sugar solution is boiled into syrup.  Sap comes out of the tree between 1 – 3%. Think of the boiling time saved if you could get the sap to  8% or even higher?

Those of us with smaller operations, rely on Mother Nature to do this work for us when the weather is right.  If conditions are right, when we collect, we can actually pull these large chunks of ice out of the buckets.  Because sugar freezes at a much lower temperature than water, the liquid left in the buckets is concentrated sap! We are not always lucky enough to benefit from this but is is indeed nice when it happens! We currently have about 50 gallons of this super sweet sap to boil.

More is not necessarily better though.  As you remove more and more of the water from the sap through this mechanical filtering process, we believe you are also removing some of what makes Maple Syrup so great.  We believe that some of its character gets flushed away with the waste water.  Though we like to benefit from this small natural concentration, overall it does not change our final product.

Mother Nature and our trees are fickle and surprisingly delicate.  Treat them with care and you will reap their rewards.

Bucket and Tap with Sap

Posted on 30 March '10 by Counselor, under Hilltop Maple.

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