We’ve been getting a lot of interest regarding our Maple Syruping process at Eagle Bluff, and figured that writing a blog post would help people understand a bit more about it!
We start tapping our trees in late February, during a seminar with our naturalists. After the naturalists learn how to identify maples and how to put in the spiles, we send them out in teams, along with our education staff, into our sugar bush. We end up tapping around 30 trees or so in the middle of our property.
We tie orange ribbon around our tapped trees, so we can see them from a distance. Plus, we map out the trees to make sure we don’t miss any during collection!
A look out into the sugar bush, with tapped trees.
Depending on the weather, sap may start flowing right away. This photo was taken in 2012 during the Syrup Seminar, right after the tree was tapped. This year, the weather was too cold for the sap to flow, and didn’t really start until mid-march. It all has to do with having above freezing temperatures during the day, and below freezing temperatures at night. The changing temperatures affect the flow and suction of the sap in the tree’s internal systems!
We collect the sap in 5 gallon buckets, and then bring it over to our filtration system. By pouring the sap through a filter, it helps eliminate small chunks of bark, insects, and other miscellaneous objects from our sap. The sap gets stored outside in giant trash cans, used only to hold sap!
Once our two big containers are full, we begin our boil! In this photo, you can see the chambers the sap travels though as the water boils off. We set the containers on top of cinder blocks to allow room for the wood to be burned underneath.
Here’s a look inside the boiler, during the process! We have placed a hood over the evaporator to help contain the heat. We add more sap as the current sap in the boiler loses its water content.
Here’s a better look at our boiler, all put together. Staff take turns watching it, usually in hour shifts, adding 5-10 pieces of wood, 4-5 times every hour to keep things going. We go through A LOT of wood during the boil offs!
Another photo, showing the boiler and the hot, burning wood inside!
Once our sap levels reach around 2 inches in the boiler, we pull it all off and bring it inside to avoid burning it in the evaporator! We turn our stoves on full blast and wait for the more foamy bubbles to appear. In this photo, the sap has just about reached syrup stage!
After becoming syrup, we filter it again, and bottle it up. Usually, we use mason jars to store and seal the syrup, so it doesn’t need to be refrigerated until opened. However, during our THIRD boil off this year, we ran out and had to make due with some other containers. We’re not complaining though!
Here you can see some of our finished 100% real maple syrup! The containers sitting right side up are from our first and second boil offs, whereas the upside down ones were just filled from our third. So far, we have a total of around 11 gallons of syrup produced! Compared to the 1.5 gallons last year, we’re ecstatic! We have one more to do this week, which may give us around 1 more gallon.
Well folks, that wraps it up! Hopefully you enjoyed reading about our syrup making process. We do hold a Maple Syrup Day every year for the public. We’d love to see you there next year!
And please, don’t hesitate to post questions or comments!