Maple syrup is made only during a short window of time during the spring months. Here in Northern New Hampshire, the season usually kicks off in early March and ends in early April.
During the fall, maple trees store starch in their roots and trunk which then converts to sugar. This sugar is then carried up through the tree, in sap, as it makes it way to the tree top giving the trees buds nutrients it needs to form leaves. To collect this sap, holes are drilled into the tree in order for the sap to flow out. Sugarmakers use spiles with buckets attached to them to collect the dripping sap, or they use spouts attached to tubing which carries the sap downhill to a sap storage area.
Seem simple right? And it is, but, conditions have to be just right in order for the sap to run through the tree. In order for sap to flow, there must be a freeze/ thaw cycle. When the tree freezes, the fibers of the tree contract, forcing the liquid in the tree downward. When it thaws, the fibers open and allow the sap to be drawn up into the top of the tree. If it is too cold, the sap will not run. If it is too warm, the sap fills the buds and stops running. Ideally, sugarmakers hope for 40 degree sunny days, and 20 degree nights during the season.
Once the sap is collected, the next part of the process is removing all of the water from the sap. This is done by using an evaporator to boil off the water. Sap only contains on average 2% sugar content. This means that it takes around 40-50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Once enough water is removed from the sap, the density of the liquid is confirmed and the syrup is ready to be filtered and bottled. Nothing is added to pure maple syrup!
Maple sap was first collected and used by Native Americans. The practice was then adopted by settlers, who over time, refined the production of making maple syrup. Here in Northern New Hampshire. making maple syrup is part of our rich heritage. We are glad to carry on this tradition for years to come!