FROM DROP TO TABLE
We have always been fascinated by the creation of maple syrup. How do you manage to transform a multitude of small drops of sap into such a delicious product without adding anything to it? This drop captivates us so much that it is at the heart of our logo!
Did you notice?
To understand the various stages in the creation of maple syrup, we therefore suggest this section that we could call "the gout circuit". Let's go!
PREPARATION AND WAITING
Every spring occurs the phenomenon of the rise of sap in the trees. Nature is waking up slowly, but surely. The tree must therefore replenish its branches to eventually allow it to bud and develop its foliage.
It all starts during winter when the tree is at rest. A very important step in the work of the maple syrup producer is tapping. As perfect a hole as possible will be made in the tree in a place where the wood is still good and the sap can rise without problem. The quality of the tapping is vital in helping to prevent leaks, as these could decrease the effectiveness of the negative suction system which we will explain a little further on.
Better to take your time. If a swallow doesn't make spring, a bad notch will hurt it too. Once the notch is made, a torch is inserted into it, which is firmly wedged with a small hammer.
A good day's work represents 400 to 500 taps. Depending on the size of the operation, it may take several weeks to be ready on time.
It is through a game of pressure that this rise of sap will be possible. Frost at night contracts the tree (and increases its internal pressure), while thaw favored by the sun reverses this phenomenon, expands the tree (and decreases its internal pressure) and promotes the rise of sap.
The phenomenon is natural and universal. However, it can be amplified to increase the efficiency of each notch. This is how a vacuum pump is used to amplify the negative pressure in the shaft and push up more sap.
While we're still waiting for our first drop, here's a quick digression on the impact of notches on the tree. The phenomenon is of course not natural but fortunately not fatal for the tree. As soon as the hole is drilled it begins to protect itself. This is why you can never hack 2 years in a row at the same site.
The scarring of the tree kills a band about 6 inches wide by 24 inches high around the edge of the notch. This is the reason for the red dot you see in the next photo.
After the season we always indicate the place of the last notch to get away from it. Year 1 in the middle, year 2 above and year 3 below. Then we move 6 inches laterally, which allows to continue for a 4th year and so on.
When the maple syrup grower has finished walking around the tree, the tree will have grown in size enough to allow us to start the process over in healthy territory.
FINALLY IT IS FLOWING!
Finally we are there. The temperatures heat up and the sap begins to flow. Our little drop will finally be able to travel.
It first slides into the torch and then moves slowly through a network of tubing converging on a main manifold pipe to the release which will be its first stop. The following photo shows part of the tubing network. This requires special maintenance. Alcohol cleaning at the end of the season as well as some repairs depending on the mood of the squirrels, deer and other inhabitants of the forest with whom we share the space.
When the releaser reaches a certain level a pump will be activated to direct our drop, now accompanied by millions of its sisters, to a large reservoir where the water will be stored until the next stage. In the image following the release is the large blue cylinder. We see the various main manifolds arriving at the top right and the transfer pump on the left.
Here is the big reservoir where our drops will rest until the next step which is that of concentration. In our case this tank holds 1000 UDS gallons. Depending on the size of the farm, the size of the reservoir may vary. You should know that a good day of pouring can yield up to a gallon of maple water per notch!
Our drop that comes from the tree has a sugar concentration that varies between 2 and 4% depending on the type of maple and the suction applied. Once transformed into syrup, this same drop must have 66% sugar. This percentage is very important. Below 65% or above 68%, the producer will be penalized and the syrup may not keep well.
Bringing our drop from 2 to 66% sugar is done by simple evaporation in a large elongated cauldron that we call the evaporator! Knowing that it takes about 40 gallons of 2% water to make a gallon of 66% syrup, it's easy to understand that the process can be quite lengthy.
This is the rationale for the middle step we call concentration!
Most sugar bushes today use a reverse osmosis machine that concentrates the maple water. The target percentage varies depending on the device, but the gains are quite significant as you will see.
In our case, we are concentrating at 8%. Others will go at 16%, 24% or even 30%!
A concentration of 2% to 8% may not seem like much to you since you have to evaporate up to 66%. However, the difference is huge. Consider our 1000 gallon tank of 2% water. If we separate it at 4% we get 500 gallons of pure water (RO) and 500 gallons of 4% water.
If you take that same 500 gallons of 4% water and separate it again, you get 250 gallons of pure water and 250 gallons of 8% water.
In the end, our 1000 gallons of 2% water gives 750 gallons of pure water (which we keep carefully for cleaning) and 250 gallons of 8% water. This will make a huge difference in the next step called evaporation.
Now is the time to heat our little drop and its sisters to produce a delicious maple syrup. This step is crucial and requires a lot of skill. This is where it goes or it breaks.
Our large saucepan can be heated in different ways. In our case, it is a wood fire that allows this task to be carried out. Others use oil for heating or electricity. The goal is the same for everyone. Boil the water to evaporate the pure water and keep only the sugar water up to a 66% concentration.
Our drops are transferred to a tank (also stainless steel; cleanliness and asepsis requires) located above the evaporator. An initial amount will be put in the evaporator and the fire will then be lit. As the water evaporates our drops slowly move forward. When they reach 66% sugar concentration our drops automatically come out at the front and new 8% drops enter at the back.
FILTRATION AND POTTING
It’s not all over. Our drop of 66% syrup should be filtered to remove all impurities before potting or cane. This step is also important and sometimes embarrassing. A syrup press is used for filtration. The pressures inside the press are important and can occasionally lead to sugar explosions that give us things to talk about at the end of the day.
As soon as the filtration is finished we hurry to put in a pot or cane. This should be done at a certain temperature (between 175 and 185 degrees F) to ensure a pasteurized product that can be stored for a long time and without danger of bacterial growth.