Making maple syrup, a process called sugaring, is a time-consuming, physical, and magical experience that all happens in a few short months. Let me take you on a quick journey through some of that process.
Maple trees must be “tapped” in order to draw sap from their trunks that have been storing the cool liquid all winter long. As the tree wakes up and the sun shines down onto it, the sap will begin running. From a wet and snowy winter, to cold frozen nights and warm days in spring, there are numerous factors that impact how well the sap runs each day and each season. All that matters to us is that we get as much sap as possible from the maple trees of the sugar bush back to our boiling tank in the sugar shack.
Originally, trees were tapped with metal spiles and tin buckets were hung just beneath them. Now, many sugaring operations use pipeline to race from tree to tree which saves the backbreaking effort of trudging through the snow and dumping each bucket one by one into a collection tank. If you’re anything like me, there’s still a big temptation to stick to buckets because it just looks so gosh darn magical. After all, half the fun of sugaring is feeling that deep connection to old-Vermont.
We’re simplifying things quite a bit here, but once the trees have been tapped and the sap has been collected, it needs to be boiled. If you’ve ever been inside a sugar shack during boiling, you know that a thick and sweet steam fills the air. It’s a delicate scent of maple and moisture that just feels so earthy and authentic. Being surrounded by family members in flannel shirts, sap bubbling and frothing in the boiling tank, and squinting to see through the steam creates such a moment of love for what we do.
Did you know it takes about 50 gallons of sap to make one single gallon of syrup? Now you might not blink so many times when you see the price of real maple syrup. Newer options and machinery have introduced reverse osmosis and other ways to help the sap go a long way, but either way, sugar makers know that sap is the real liquid gold.
Once the sap has been boiled to syrup, it needs to be tested and bottled. Depending on the darkness and thickness of the syrup, various grades are assigned. Over the years some of the names for syrup grades have changed a bit, but you can read more here if you’ve got questions about which grade is right for you.
After the syrup passes through a filtering and straining process, it can be bottled. We use everything from plastic to glass to classic tins. It’s all about preference, but be sure that you know how to properly store whichever kind you choose to purchase. Plastic might be the most “practical” options but the charming glass bottles and fun tin shapes are perfect for gift giving!
This is the best part of maple syrup! We love to enjoy our syrup at breakfast, in our coffee, or over ice cream. We also use maple sugar, maple cream, maple vinegar, and other products to keep our meals fresh, delicious, and interesting. All that matters is that you love what you’re eating and you’re proud of where it came from.
Now that you know a bit more about how we make maple syrup and some of the fun along the way, see if you can spot the different steps in the photos below!