Autumn sugar houseBlue Ribbon Vermont Maple
Williams Farms

How We Do It: The Process of Making Maple Syrup

We use wood for fuel when we boil the sap in the sugar house. This means that the process of getting ready for sugaring in a particular year actually begins in the Summer and Fall of the previous year. The wood has to be cut, hauled, and stacked ready for use; as Rob is doing in this picture.Stacking wood


The next step must be done late in the next winter; hopefully, before the sap begins to flow. The trees must be tapped and the plastic tubing put in working order. The sap flows by gravity through the tubing to a collecting tank. In order for that to happen, there must be a proper slope to the tubing. This sometimes means tapping some trees far above the ground; as Kevin is doing here.
Tapping trees

This picture shows the tubing stretched tight, ready to do its job.

In order for the sap to rise in the trees, their winter dormancy must be broken. This happens when temperatures during the day rise above about 40, and night temperatures fall well below freezing. Once these conditions are met, the sap will begin to flow.

When the collecting tank is full, the sap is transferred to another tank on a truck or other vehicle and taken to the sugar house.
Collecting  tank

 It is transferred again to a holding tank that feeds the evaporator pan inside; where the boiling process begins.
Sugar house exterior

The evaporator pan has a maze of partitions that lead the sap back and forth over the fire below while it gradually becomes hotter and hotter. The sap begins to boil and evaporate in clouds of steam; as this picture shows.
Boiling sap

Eventually, the thickened liquid works its way into the final section. Here it continues to boil until testing shows that it is the right consistency. In this picture, Keith is demonstrating testing in the old fashioned way: when the liquid drips off the edge of the scoop in a sheet, it is done. More modern methods give more accurate results.

When a batch of syrup is ready, it is drawn off through a faucet into storage containers.
Drawing off

Bulk storage drums

If conditions are at their best, the flow of sap will be so fast that the boiling has to continue well into the night.
Boiling at night

Once the sugaring season is over; the syrup is reheated, filtered, graded,
Syrup grades
and poured into the containers that will be sold to our customers.
Some of our products

However, the work is not over yet! The evaporator and other equipment in the sugar house must be washed and put away. In the sugar bush, the tubing must be washed in place. Then, after a time that seems very short, the whole procedure begins again with the cutting, hauling, and stacking of wood for next season!

Copyright ©2000 Kevin Williams and Williams Maple Farm

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