Each spring, when the weather is just right (freezing nights and warm days), we head to our woods to start tapping our maple trees. After a 5/16 inch hole is drilled in each tree a tap (or plastic spile) is inserted into the hole. Maple trees can be tapped for many years and are not damaged from this process. From the spile the pure sap is carried through our plastic tubing system to a main collection point. When raw sap leaves the tree it is approximately 1.5-2% sugar, it looks and tastes more like water than pure maple syrup. It takes about 45 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of pure maple syrup and one tap will produce between 12-15 gals of sap per year.
Once the sap has been collected it must be boiled to 66.7brix before it can be given the prestigious name of pure maple syrup. This removal of water is achieved by evaporation. The evaporation takes place in specially designed stainless steel pans with partitions which guide the syrup as it increases in density. In our operation we do it the way the old timers did, with a wood fired evaporator. To produce 25 gallons of maple syrup it takes 1 cord of firewood, a cord of wood is a stack of wood 4ft. wide, 4ft. tall and 8ft. long.
Producing high quality maple syrup requires that the fresh sap is boiled as soon as possible after it has left the tree, so throughout the season it is not uncommon to find us boiling syrup into the wee hours of the morning. As the boiling sap turns to syrup it must be carefully monitored, and removed from the heat when it is finished syrup. The hot syrup is then filtered, to remove naturally occurring mineral deposits, and stored in drums which is later repackaged in smaller containers throughout the year. The whole “sugaring season” lasts about six weeks.
In a nutshell unfiltered maple syrup is pure maple syrup with all the minerals and nutrients that were present when the sap was collected from the tree. It tastes the same and looks the same but will have a cloudy rather than clear appearance. It is produced the same exact way as all pure maple syrup, the only difference is we do not filter out the deposits of minerals before the syrup is packaged.