First Syrup for 2018

by Peter 3/19/2018 7:43:00 AM

The 2018 maple syrup season has had an underwhelming start.  February and March have been cool to cold.  We collected our first sap a couple of weeks ago, but the flows were so slow that we had to dump the sap out.  Maple sap is a perishable product, so if we can't process it relatively quickly we have to discard it.  To start our season we need about 1500 gallons of sap, or 1.5 gallons per tap from our 1000 tap sugarbush.  The sap goes through a filter, into a reverse osmosis machine which removes 75% or the water and then into our evaporator.  Our 1500 gallons of raw sap (2% sugar) is reduced to 375 gallons of concentrated sap (8% sugar).  It takes about 75-100 gallons of sap to fill the pans of our 4'x12' evaporator, so that leaves us with a little less than 300 gallons of concentrated sap in our tank.  We weren't expecting to get any syrup yesterday because typically the first boil only establishes a concentration gradient in the pan.  The pan is sort of like a line corral at the airport security check point or an amusement park--a long winding maze.  We continually put the cold sap from the tank into the pan in the same spot, but evaporation is taking place on the entire pan.  This results in the sap becoming more and more concentrated the further it is away from the input for the cold sap.  After boiling for a few hours on our wood fired evaporator, we had our first syrup of 2018.  We made 15 gallons of Amber Rich maple syrup.

Looking at the picture above, you can see different grades of syrup.  All maple syrup has the same amount of sugar (66% to 67%) but the color is different depending on the weather, how fast the sap flow is and how quickly you can process it.  One grade isn't better or worse than the others, but they do taste differently.  The lighter the syrup, the more "delicate" the flavor profile.  The darker the syrup, the "stronger" or more pronounced the maple flavor is.  As a general rule lighter colored syrup is made earlier in the season and darker syrup later in the season.  The syrup we made yesterday was the color of the second lightest bottle in the picture, graded as "Amber Rich".  The four grades are:

Golden Delicate

Amber Rich

Dark Robust

Very Dark Strong

The extended forecast of day time temperatures in the forties and night time temperatures in the twenties looks promising for sap flow.