When the Sap Flows
Sugaring season begins in late winter when the night time temperature is below freezing and the daytime temperature rises above freezing. As the temperature rises, pressure builds in maple trees causing sap to flow out through tap holes. During cooler periods, when the temperature falls below freezing, suction draws water from the soil into the tree through its roots. As the roots absorb more water, the sap in the tree replenishes and begins to flow when temperatures warm up again.
Once this cycle of warm and cool periods begins in late winter, maple syrup producers begin to collect the sap from the trees through an extensive system of vacuum collection tubes and storage tanks. When enough sap is collected in the storage tanks, the sap goes through a reverse osmosis machine to take a percentage of water from the sap before it’s boiled. The sap is then boiled in an evaporator. As the water in the sap evaporates, the sap gets thicker and the sugar begins to caramelize. When the thermometer in the pan reaches 219 degrees Fahrenheit, the syrup is ready to draw off. After it’s drawn off, the syrup is filtered, adjusted for density, graded for flavor and color and then bottled.
As temperatures no longer fluctuate between freezing at night and thawing during the day, the sap stops flowing. Maple syrup producers are reliant on a short season of about four to six weeks to collect sap to make syrup. Last year New York State producers made 760,000 gallons of maple syrup.
Plan a trip to your local sugar house this year. Maple weekends are March 17th and 18th and March 24th and 25th. Visit http://www.nysmaple.com/nys-maple-weekend/ for more information.