Maple Sugaring: A Springtime Tradition (Part 1)
Maple Sugaring: A Springtime Tradition (Part 2)
Maple sap starts with a sugar content of 2% to 3%. It is when maple sap is processed so the sugar content reaches higher concentrations that you begin to get to the heart of Maple—maple syrup, maple sugar, and a wide range of other maple products.
The minimum sugar concentration for maple syrup is 66%. This is the minimum set by law. As the sugar concentration increases to various levels above 66%, the product develops into maple creams, soft maple sugar, and finally hard maple sugar. Even in hard maple sugar, the sugar concentration never reaches 100%.
Maple production can be classified as one of nature’s wonders. Maple sap cannot be collected just any time of the year. Alternating episodes of freezing and thawing cause the sap to move (flow) within the sugar maple tree, and this only happens for a few weeks in the spring and fall. Spring is when most of the maple syrup is produced, because weather conditions are generally more favorable for sap flow. However, there are some limited studies of autumn maple production to determine if more economical use can be made of our maple forests.
When the weather warms up to above freezing, maple sap will begin to flow. It will continue to flow at a steadily declining rate for approximately 8 to 15 hours, provided the temperature remains above freezing. When it refreezes at night and thaws again the next day, the sap flow will resume at the peak rate and slowly diminish to nearly no flow by the end of the 8- to 15-hour period. These intermittent flow periods will continue for as long as the freeze/thaw cycle lasts. However, when the weather finally stays above freezing and the trees begin to bud, the sap flow changes composition and is no longer usable. At this point, maple production is finished for the season.
Point of interest: Maple sap will generally flow during any rise in temperature above freezing. However, a very rapid rise in temperature (from 25°F to 45°F) will enhance the sap flow considerably. These are the days when spring is in the air, and the people of Michigan want to get outside and enjoy the weather. This is a sign that the Michigan Maple season is in full swing.
Although timing and techniques may differ, the concept is the same: collect sap of the correct chemical composition and remove water from it until the desired concentration of sugar remains. To achieve this, there are a few basic elements that must come together for maple production to be successful. You may use the arrows by the binding to step through the process, or turn directly to the pages listed below:
Anyone who has eaten maple products will agree that is worth all the effort involved in making maple syrup. Maple syrup is a natural product. Pure maple syrup has nothing added and only water is removed during the concentrating process. Concentrating maple sap to maple syrup makes it more convenient for man to store and use; and maple syrup is always ready for use on pancakes, ice cream, french toast, cereal, or in your favorite maple recipe. HAPPY EATING!
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