The sap began to flow at the end of February – 27th – when temperatures rose briefly. Now it’s flowing intermittently when temperatures rise during the day. Equipment is still freezing up overnight and has to be shut down while the lows are in their twenties: 21F, 24F and 29F, but it was 39F last night.
Maple syrup is highly processed, requiring complicated equipment for each stage of production: sap is drawn from the trees through tubing with a vacuum system; the sap is then passed through a reverse osmosis machine that removes water and makes the sap more concentrated. (This process produces purified water called permeate.) The sap is then boiled to about 220F, then clarified through a filter press. The boiling point varies with atmospheric pressure.
The amount of sap that each tree produces depends on the girth of the tree. Each tree makes roughly one quart of finished syrup. One gallon of syrup will start life as roughly 42 gallons of sap this year, the ratio being dependent on how sweet the sap is. The sugar content (measured in degrees Brix: one degree of Brix is one gram of sucrose per 100 grams of solution) of the sap now running is 2%. Tree Juice Maple Syrup has two sap bushes: the Red Kill sap bush has sweeter sap than the Rider Hollow sap bush, which has more red maple than Red Kill. If enough sap flows on a warm day, boiling continues all day and night until the collection tank – 6300 gallons – is empty.
The final product is subtly sweet, not overwhelmingly so, and tastes smooth and earthy: nature’s amber nectar.