Maple syrup season has commenced for 2013 and some maple producers are expecting a record year. However, at the Mohawk Valley Trading Company they have yet to begin due to less than optimal weather conditions.
The 2013 maple syrup season has commenced.
Last week’s mild temperatures caused a sap run never seen before, according to maple syrup producer Russ Hassmann of Durham Sugarhouse in Durham, Connecticut.
"Traditionally, we were running middle of February until the end of March. Last year we tapped the end of January and we're tapping the end of January this year, so we'll see," said Mr. Hassmann who collected 1,000 gallons of sap in the first run of the season after temperatures got up to the mid-fifties last week. As a result, the sap quickly filled a number of Hassmann’s sap tanks.
"They were overflowing when I got home," Hassmann said.
"There's never been a run like this," Hassmann continued. "The syrup will be very light and sweet right now for the first batches of the season. Then as the days get warmer and warmer, the sap chemistry changes, the syrup becomes progressively darker, somewhat less sweet and conservatively more maple flavored,"
Last year Hassmann harvested 6,000 gallons and this year could set a record at the Durham Sugarhouse.
Although some are maple producers are expecting a record year, some are cutting back on purpose.
“Since the land we tap is not on tubing, we have decided to cut back this year compared to the 700 taps we did in 2011.” said Angela K. Murphy Schumacher of Smoky Lake Maple Products, a small maple syrup producer and maple syrup equipment fabricator located in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. “Collecting by hand can be fun but is very time consuming and labor intensive. Rather than put all our energies into making our own syrup, we would like to also spend time with other maple producers who have bought equipment from us over the last year.”
In some of the maple producing regions, they have not started at all.
“After the few warm days last week, it has not gotten above the mid twenties, day or nights.” said Mary Ross of the Mohawk Valley Trading Company of Utica, NY where their maple syrup is made primarily from sugar maple sap. “And tonight it is supposed to be 1 below.”
Ideal conditions for maple sap flow is when night time temperatures are in the low 20’s and daytime temperatures reach about 40 degrees.
About Maple Syrup
The production of maple syrup in North America predates European colonization. Early Native American societies in Canada and the northeastern United States were distilling maple syrup and sugar before those geographic boundaries existed. Maple sugar is made from the controlled crystallization of maple syrup and takes several forms.There is no written record of the first syrup production but several native legends persist. Many tribes celebrated the short maple sap collection season with specific rituals.
The Native Americans collected maple sap from v-shaped notches carved into maple trees. The sap was diverted into birch bark buckets using bark or reeds. It was concentrated by placing hot stones into the buckets or by freezing the sap and removing the ice, which is composed only of water.
When Europeans reached northeastern America they adapted native techniques to make their own maple syrup. The v-shaped notches were replaced with auger-drilled holes. This practice is less damaging to the trees. Bark buckets were replaced with seamless wooden buckets carved from lumber rounds. The method of sap concentration also changed from passive to active. Large amounts of sap were collected and brought to a single area where it was boiled over fires in round cauldrons until reduced to the desired consistency. ‘Sugar shacks’ were built expressly for the purpose of sap boiling. Draft animals were often used to haul fire wood and large containers of sap for sugaring. Maple syrup was an important food additive in early America because imported cane sugar was not yet available.
In the mid-1800’s syrup production changed again. Round cauldrons were replaced by flat pans in order to increase surface area and therefore allow for faster evaporation. Over the next 60 year several variations on this design were patented. Draft animals were replaced by tractors and heating methods expanded to include propane, oil and natural gas as well as wood.
The 1970’s represent another period of major changes in maple syrup production. Plastic tubing running directly from trees to the sugaring location eliminated the need for energy and time intensive sap collection. Reverse osmosis and pre-heating made syrup production more efficient. Recent advances have been made in sugarbush (maple trees used primarily for syrup production) management, filtration and storage.
The Mohawk Valley Trading Company hours of operations are 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST, seven days a week. Reach them at (315)-519-2640 to learn more.
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.