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.
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
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.
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 40º, 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.
It is transferred again to
a holding tank that feeds the evaporator pan inside; where the boiling process
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.
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
If conditions are at their best, the flow of sap will be so fast that the
boiling has to continue well into the night.
Once the sugaring season is over; the syrup is reheated, filtered, graded,
and poured into the containers that will be sold to our customers.
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
Kevin Williams and Williams Maple Farm