There are many steps to making maple syrup. It is a long, tasking, and grueling process. Though I have only just been introduced to how everyone’s favorite pancake topping is made I’ll try my best to summarize.
As everyone knows, maple syrup (implied in the name) is a product of maple trees, and the reason for this is because the maple tree has a naturally higher sugar content than other trees such as birch. To convert sap to syrup however, starts as early as January in the woods at the foot of a maple tree. There are various ways to harvest the sap from the tree, which include the traditional way where you hang a metal bucket to a tree with a metal “spile” also referred to as a “tap”. But, the more commonly used plastic piping has been found to be the most efficient. It connects directly to a tree with a plastic tree-safe tap. This step takes quite a bit of time; the reason for this is because the sap tends to freeze in these plastic lines on its way to the sugar house. Although there is a vacuum that helps pull the sap, it isn’t always flowing continuously. As a result of this, the bacteria has more time to eat the natural sugars which has a direct effect on the sugar content of the sap and increases the amount of time it takes to boil the sap into syrup.
In continuation, once the sap makes it through the plastic lines is deposited in a metal storage container similar to a vat. It then gets piped up and into the sugar house where all of the boiling is done. At this point the stage is set for the conversion from sap to syrup. Sap is put through a micro filter to gather all of the dirt and other materials and then pours down into another vat-like metal storage container. The then filtered sap goes into the evaporator and spends a period of time boiling down until the sap is turned into syrup.
The amount of time to convert the sap to syrup varies and has a lot of variables: how much or how little sugar content the sap has, at what temperature you’re boiling at, and how much sap you may have. After most of the water has been boiled out of the sap and the sugar content is high enough for it to turn in to syrup, you have come to a conclusion. Your last step is to strain the syrup one more time through two big filters (pictured above) to get the rest of miscellaneous materials out of the syrup.This is the first drip and now you have your tasty final product.
It is then graded on its color. The taste is based on the coloring as well, a lighter more yellow color may have a more vanilla taste opposed to a darker more amber colored syrup that may have a darker stronger and more smokey taste. In theory, making maple syrup is not a complex operation. In fact, syrup production is mostly just physically demanding, labor intensive, time-consuming, and messy. Even though not everything is black or white there are many steps and variables to take into consideration. Making maple syrup is a long, tasking, and grueling process. However, the payoff is well worth it and has given me a new-found respect for the men and women who make us our favorite breakfast topping.