Published April 14, 2020
As April comes with a promise of spring on the horizon, there are two things on every Vermonters mind: mud and maple syrup. For us here at Farm & Wilderness, this means gearing up to climb the ridge above camps. Our sugar bush is a particularly steep one and still covered with snow and ice this time of year. The hike up to the top of our maple stand is made with extreme caution and we are thankful for the beech saplings for giving us something to grab onto when we inevitably start sliding.
In every sugar maple we come up to a small hole is drilled, a tap is inserted and then attached to tubing that goes all the way down to our collection tanks. With around 400 trees tapped this can be an all-day process.
As with all the products on our farm, our syrup is certified organic through NOFA (Northern Organic Farmers Association). Organic syrup comes from maple trees not grown in a pure maple monoculture but in a diverse ecosystem. Diversity in the stand increases nutrient cycling and reduces the spread of insects and diseases. We keep the health of our trees in mind by only using one tap per tree no matter the size and only tapping trees greater than 12 in diameter.
The sugaring season is entirely temperature-dependent. After a cold night with temps in the 20s, a rise in temperature of the sugar maple sapwood to above freezing causes a positive pressure within the wood. This is the pressure that forces sap to flow down through the lines and into our collection tank.
Fresh sap from a maple tree looks just like water, is slightly sweet and very refreshing. It takes roughly 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup. On a good flow day, 10 hours can be spent in the sugar house boiling down several hundred gallons of sap into sweet liquid gold.
The sap is fed into the evaporating pans which is heated by our wood-fired arch which gives the final product a wonderful smokey flavor. As the sap begins to concentrate it becomes darker and flows further through the pans until it has a high enough sugar content to be considered syrup and is “drawn off”. From there, the now syrup is filtered to remove the niter or “sugar sand” and bottled at a sterile temperature.
Our syrup is used in all our camp kitchens and for sale at the BDC farm market. Maple syrup is a deeply rooted tradition in Vermont and we are happy to share one of nature’s most amazing treats with our community.
Posted in Farm News