There's a process to making pure maple syrup, it starts with sap.
Over the years we’ve come into contact with many people who think that maple syrup comes straight out of the tree as the sweet, sticky, amber liquid they pour over their pancakes. It may be basic information for some people, but how is one really supposed to know if they’ve never talked to a maple producer, researched it, or experienced it themselves? So, the fact is, what you get in your jug of pure maple syrup does not come directly out of the maple tree that way.
It comes out as sap – a semi-clear, slightly-sweet liquid – also known as maple water. It is a thinner substance, and is generally 98% water and only 2% sugar. Maple trees expel their sap in the early spring, when the snow starts melting, the ground is a muddy mess, and the temperature goes from above to below freezing (& vice versa) in no time flat.
|Kern unloading maple sap on a rainy March day in 2013|
Simply put, this water-like liquid flows out of a drilled hole in the tree, and goes through a tubing system or in a bucket. It is then collected and boiled in an evaporator. Boiling drives off excess water, leaving behind the thicker, sugary substance. If only you could capture the smell of a night of boiling – so sweet! Steam fills the air as the water evaporates, and eventually, once boiled long enough, it becomes pure maple syrup. Having the opportunity to taste this maple sap every season is such a pleasure, and being able to turn it into pure maple syrup is a privilege.