The Maple Syrup Process at Johnson Sugar Camp

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A description with pictures of how sugar water becomes maple syrup at the Johnson Sugar Camp.

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The Maple Syrup Process at Johnson Sugar Camp

  1. 1. The Maple Syrup ProcessThe Maple Syrup Process1.1. TappingTapping2.2. CollectingCollecting3.3. StoringStoring4.4. BoilingBoiling5.5. CanningCanning
  2. 2. Summary of Maple Syrup ProcessSummary of Maple Syrup ProcessMaple syrup is made from the sugar water or sap that isMaple syrup is made from the sugar water or sap that iscollected from sugar maple trees. The sap is boiled socollected from sugar maple trees. The sap is boiled sothat most of the water evaporates and thick, sugarythat most of the water evaporates and thick, sugarysyrup remains.syrup remains.In Ohio, sap is collected in late winter. Nights where theIn Ohio, sap is collected in late winter. Nights where thetemperature drops below freezing and days when thetemperature drops below freezing and days when thetemperature rises above freezing would characterize thetemperature rises above freezing would characterize theoptimum weather conditions for sap collection. Theseoptimum weather conditions for sap collection. Theseconditions allow the sap in the trees to “flow” and beconditions allow the sap in the trees to “flow” and becollected.collected.Maple syrup season begins when trees are tapped, usuallyMaple syrup season begins when trees are tapped, usuallyaround mid-February. It lasts as long as the weatheraround mid-February. It lasts as long as the weathercooperates, up until the time trees begin to budcooperates, up until the time trees begin to bud..
  3. 3. Prior To TappingPrior To TappingBefore we tap the trees, we first distribute the buckets throughoutBefore we tap the trees, we first distribute the buckets throughoutthe woods so that they are ready to hang as trees are tapped.the woods so that they are ready to hang as trees are tapped.
  4. 4. TappingTappingTapping refers to the process of drilling a hole or holes into theTapping refers to the process of drilling a hole or holes into thetrunk of a tree to allow for the collection of sap or sugar water.trunk of a tree to allow for the collection of sap or sugar water.We drill a 7/16" hole in the tree, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 inchesWe drill a 7/16" hole in the tree, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 inchesdeep. New holes are located about six inches from a previousdeep. New holes are located about six inches from a previousseason’s taphole. Trees should be allowed to grow to at least 12"season’s taphole. Trees should be allowed to grow to at least 12"in diameter before they are tapped. When a taphole is drilled, sapin diameter before they are tapped. When a taphole is drilled, sapwill start to drip from it almost immediately. We then insert awill start to drip from it almost immediately. We then insert aspile into the taphole.spile into the taphole.
  5. 5. The spile that is inserted into the taphole directs the sap into aThe spile that is inserted into the taphole directs the sap into abucket or pale and also serves as the hanger for the bucket. Whenbucket or pale and also serves as the hanger for the bucket. Whenthe weather cooperates and the sap runs, it is then necessary tothe weather cooperates and the sap runs, it is then necessary tocollect the sap.collect the sap.TappingTapping
  6. 6. CollectingCollectingWe use a very traditional method to collect sap, much like we didWe use a very traditional method to collect sap, much like we did50 years ago. Sap runs from the trees through short metal spiles50 years ago. Sap runs from the trees through short metal spilesinto buckets hanging from the tree. We use a tractor and sapinto buckets hanging from the tree. We use a tractor and sapwagon to “haul” the sap.wagon to “haul” the sap.
  7. 7. CollectingCollectingWorkers walk from tree to tree pouring the sap into 5-gallonWorkers walk from tree to tree pouring the sap into 5-gallonbuckets and then pour from the larger buckets into the storagebuckets and then pour from the larger buckets into the storagetank located on the sap wagon. With 5-7 workers accompanyingtank located on the sap wagon. With 5-7 workers accompanyinga sap wagon, “hauling” can be a very enjoyable task.a sap wagon, “hauling” can be a very enjoyable task.
  8. 8. StoringStoringWhen the storage tank on the sap wagon is full, the driver takesWhen the storage tank on the sap wagon is full, the driver takesit to the water shed to unload. The sap is strained as it isit to the water shed to unload. The sap is strained as it isemptied into a large, below ground storage tank. After emptyingemptied into a large, below ground storage tank. After emptyingthe sap wagon, the driver returns to find the crew to fill upthe sap wagon, the driver returns to find the crew to fill upagain. Depending on the weather, it might be necessary toagain. Depending on the weather, it might be necessary tocollect sap on consecutive days or just once or twice a week.collect sap on consecutive days or just once or twice a week.
  9. 9. BoilingBoilingThe next step in processing the sap into maple syrup is theThe next step in processing the sap into maple syrup is theboiling stage. Boiling of the sap is done in an evaporator. Weboiling stage. Boiling of the sap is done in an evaporator. Weuse a wood-fueled fire and an evaporator that is 5 feet wide anduse a wood-fueled fire and an evaporator that is 5 feet wide and16 feet long. A forced-air fire system allows the fire to burn at a16 feet long. A forced-air fire system allows the fire to burn at ahigher temperature and decreases the amount of ash to behigher temperature and decreases the amount of ash to beremoved from the stove.removed from the stove.
  10. 10. BoilingBoilingThe sap flows into theThe sap flows into theevaporator pans by way of aevaporator pans by way of afloat valve, maintaining aboutfloat valve, maintaining about1 1/2 inches of sap in the pans1 1/2 inches of sap in the pansat all times. Water evaporatesat all times. Water evaporatesfrom the boiling sap, makingfrom the boiling sap, makingthe sap denser and sweeter asthe sap denser and sweeter asit flows around the partitionsit flows around the partitionsin the evaporator. The pansin the evaporator. The pansare designed in a way to forceare designed in a way to forcethe sap to flow back and forththe sap to flow back and forthas it is boiling, creating a longas it is boiling, creating a longnarrow path for the sap tonarrow path for the sap toflow through. As the sap isflow through. As the sap isflowing through the pans it isflowing through the pans it ismaking the transition frommaking the transition fromsap to syrup.sap to syrup.
  11. 11. BoilingBoilingWhen the syrup reaches the correct density of 66% sugar solids, itWhen the syrup reaches the correct density of 66% sugar solids, itboils at 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of pure water.boils at 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of pure water.When the syrup reaches the correct temperature a valve is releasedWhen the syrup reaches the correct temperature a valve is releasedallowing the syrup to flow out of the evaporator. The maple syrupallowing the syrup to flow out of the evaporator. The maple syrupis now ready to be filtered and canned.is now ready to be filtered and canned.
  12. 12. CanningCanningSap from maple trees contains many dissolved minerals. As the sapSap from maple trees contains many dissolved minerals. As the sapis being boiled, these minerals precipitate out of the syrup and formis being boiled, these minerals precipitate out of the syrup and forma fine grit called sugar sand. We use a filter-pump to force thea fine grit called sugar sand. We use a filter-pump to force thesyrup through fine paper filters and therefore catch and remove thesyrup through fine paper filters and therefore catch and remove thesugar sand from the syrup. After filtering the syrup, we run itsugar sand from the syrup. After filtering the syrup, we run itthrough tubing to a canning tank. From there, we can the syrup intothrough tubing to a canning tank. From there, we can the syrup intocontainers of various sizes, ranging from 1 gallon down to a ½ pintcontainers of various sizes, ranging from 1 gallon down to a ½ pintand even smaller.and even smaller.

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