What makes Maine Sugarworks maple syrup different from others?
The process of making maple syrup is all about removing water from maple sap. Most producers use an evaporator with a ‘raised flu’. This special pan design allows water to be removed from the sap more quickly. Generally the quicker the sap is moved through the pans the lighter the finished syrup will be. The flavor of maple syrup is determined by four main factors:
1. Freshness, our syrup is boiled the same day it is collected, during a good run this means staying up all night to boil sap!
2. Cleanliness, our sap is stored in stainless steel tanks and boiled in stainless pans that are cleaned between runs, this allows us to keep things as clean as possible.
3. The tree, the sap of each tree has it own sugar content and flavor. The pure mountain air and glacial soils of rural Western Maine create an outstanding growing environment for the sugar maple tree!
4. The boiling process. A large part of the final flavor of maple syrup is formed through the caramelization of sugars when boiling. The longer the sap stays in the pan boiling, the darker and stronger the flavor will be. Our flat pans allow the syrup to mature and intensify slowly, the old fashioned way. Maine Sugarworks has a dedicated following of repeat customers who appreciate the stronger maple flavor produced in our saphouse.
Why doesn't Maine Sugarworks sell syrup year-round?
There is the story of the old sugar maker who won the lottery and when a reporter asked him what he was going to do with his winnings he stated, “I’m going to keep making syrup until the money is all gone!” Our family works long days in the spring making the syrup, but we also spend time in the fall cutting firewood, bottling, taking orders and shipping syrup for the holiday. In winter we work on the pipeline, thin the sugarbush. Our family has deliberately chosen to limit our growth by not enlarging our production operation and to only actively sell syrup online for 7 weeks during the holiday season. This is about as much as our family can manage without killing each other! Our goal is to produce and market a high quality product without having the business take over our lives!
Why are shipping charges so expensive?
Pure maple syrup is heavy, really heavy. A gallon of gasoline weighs around 6 pounds, a gallon of water weighs around 8.3 pounds, but a gallon of maple syrup weighs 11 pounds! Because maple syrup is so heavy, it costs more to ship.
We have found the U.S. postal service flat rate boxes to be the most economical and to have the lowest incidence of breakage.
How was the 2013 sap season?
Across the maple belt 2013 was a banner year. According to the USDA production was up over 50% from the previous year! Because we were doing some late winter cutting and thinning in our sugarbush, our pipeline was not ready to catch the first run of the season. Consequently our production was only up a little from 2012 at about 70 gallons. Sap production is completely at the mercy of the weather, hopefully 2014 will bring another favorable crop.
Does all Maine Sugarworks syrup come from the trees on your property?
No, we have several maple stands that we tap some are next to our home others are on different farms. We also purchase some bulk Maine syrup to blend with ours. All syrup is blended* The sap from each individual tree is blended with the sap of other trees, the sap from different sap births is blended together before it is boiled each night, and many days' syrup production is blended together for bottling. Before bottling, we sample, discuss and choose the best blend according to flavor. It is all about flavor; we pride ourselves on the delicious rich flavor of our maple syrup.
* Actually I have a buddy, Peter in Kingfield, ME who taps 1 tree each year! 1 hole, 1 spile, 1 bucket and 1 lid! He boils on his kitchen stove and bottles in baby food jars with an awesome label. His production operation is the only one I know of that is not blended!
How is maple syrup graded?
The State of Maine has four maple syrup grades: Light Amber, Medium Amber, Dark Amber and Extra Dark Amber. These four grades are based exclusively on the lightness or darkness of the syrup. At Maine Sugarworks, we take great pride in our signature dark amber color with a strong wood-fired, maple flavor.
How long can maple syrup be stored and used?
Maple Syrup is an all-natural product with no preservatives. Unopened containers of pure maple syrup can be stored in a cool, dark place for over a year without refrigeration. Syrup will keep indefinitely if it is stored in the freezer as it preserves the flavor but because of its high sugar content, it won’t freeze. After opening, the syrup should be refrigerated. If mold forms on the surface of your maple syrup, simply skim it off and reheat on the stove or in the microwave to just below boiling, then place it in a clean container and refrigerate. Glass is recommended as it preserves the color and flavor longer than other containers.
When is the Maine maple syrup season?
In the western mountains of Maine, maple season usually starts in late February/early March. Townspeople get excited when they spot the first sap buckets around town; it’s a sure sign that the days of winter are numbered and mud season is just around the corner. Sugaring season usually lasts 4-6 weeks; everything depends on the weather. The sap usually stops running around mid-April, when the nighttime temperatures remain above freezing and the tree buds begin to swell in preparation for leafing-out.
What are the right weather conditions for sap flow?
The maple trees’ sap flow mechanism depends on temperatures which alternate back and forth past the freezing point (32 °F). The best sap flows come when nighttime temperatures are in the low 20's and daytime temperatures are in the 40's. The longer it stays below freezing at night, the longer it will take for the sap to rise in the day. During the day, as the tree warms up and the tree's internal pressure builds, the sap begins to flow. At this point, the sap will run from a tap hole or even a broken twig or branch. For good sap production, maple producers must have the alternating warm/cold temperatures. This is why it’s so impossible to predict the outcome of the maple syrup crop from year to year.
Does maple syrup come directly out of the tree?
Unfortunately, no. A clear, watery and slightly sweet liquid called sap is what runs from the tree each spring. When boiled, the water content is reduced which concentrates the sap into maple syrup. mmmmm.
What does maple sap look and taste like?
Maple sap, as it drips from the tree, is a clear liquid containing about 2% dissolved sugar. It looks just like water, and has a very slight sweet taste. The true maple flavor comes out as the water is removed in the boiling process.
Does tapping harm the maple trees?
Proper tapping does not harm the tree, and the amount of sap taken from the tree is a very small fraction of the overall volume of sap in the tree. Trees must be about 10” in diameter before they can be tapped, and most trees can have one or two taps per season. Larger trees may have more. Many of the big maple trees in New England have been tapped yearly for well over 100 years. Last year we changed all of our pipeline traditional taps (spiles) to the new “health spile” which requires a smaller hole that heals much quicker. Most maple producers (but not all) understand that their maple trees are their ‘bread and butter’ and go to great lengths not to stress the trees by over tapping.
How much sap does it take to make a gallon of syrup?
Depending on the sweetness of the sap, it can take anywhere from 25-75 gallons of raw sap to make a gallon of finished syrup. The usual amount is about 40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup. Each tap in a tree will yield about 10 gallons of slightly sweet sap over the period of the 4-6 week sugaring season. These 10 gallons of sap, when boiled down, will yield approximately one quart of finished maple syrup.
Is global warming effecting maple syrup production in Maine?
Old-timers, who have produced maple syrup for generations, remember when sap overflowed buckets many times during a sap season. This rarely occurs today. Additionally, the annual tapping date, on average, has gotten progressively earlier and the season shorter. As our climate changes/ warms, the 'maple belt' is shifting northward.
What can be done about global warming?
The old saying 'think globally, act locally' comes to mind. By reducing your personal energy consumption, you help to reduce the overall impact on the environment and your budget. This is why we chose to build a superinsulated home and drive more energy efficient 4-cylinder engine vehicles.
Can I make suggestions or comments?
Your comments are very important to us; we encourage you to provide feedback about our products, web page or any aspect of Maine Sugarworks. Please take a moment and drop us a note-