Maple Syrup Season: Round 2

Sugarshack Dutch Doors

Wistful thoughts of mine include hanging my shingle beside this door and selling maple syrup straight from the sugar shack.

With my second maple syrup season approaching quickly, thoughts of the sugar bush have been consuming my mind: sustainable woodlot practices, food preparation, equipment preparation…  The list goes on.  I’ve been tinkering with the idea of selling some of my maple syrup.  In designing the sugar shack we included a set of Dutch doors on one side of the entry way.  For me these doors bring to mind visions of old bakeries and other food producing kitchens where consumers could approach a kitchen and purchase food within minutes of it coming out of the oven.  I value the notion of goods going straight from producer to consumer.   Now, our operation is too remote (and muddy) to expect people to come knocking on our door looking for syrup, beyond a couple sales to friends at a pancake breakfast I plan on hosting but it’s still fun to include the Dutch doors design element into our sugar shack.  Since we are located close to Carp, selling at the Carp Farmer’s Market is the next best thing to selling straight from the sugar shack.

Here is my label design in all of it's glory.

Here is my label design in all of it’s glory.

 

For fun I designed a logo to put on my bottles.  The design is a simple drawing; pencil, very flat style.  Basic yet distinct.  I chose these elements to convey the traditional, back to basics nature of our methods; and the unique flavors of pure maple syrup.  (What’s more is unlike some commercial brands my syrup is made from 100% maple syrup and doesn’t contain a plethora of ingredients that you can’t pronounce!)  Since I’ve got the design figured out, my next step is to find some label paper that I can print on and set up a printer template.  I’m thinking that I want an arched top, however that may cut off a lot of my drawing.  Maybe I should add some more tree limbs to the top….  Back to the drawing board!!

 

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Winter Anticipation 2

‘Tis the season! The season to get excited about spring.  Maple syrup season round 2!  In eager anticipation of this monumentous season I decided to go to Montréal to buy maple syrup equipment. Julia, why wouldn’t you just buy it from somewhere around here, you ask?  I’d done my research and found that Montréal was the cheapest place I could get a bulk order of bottles and a holding tank from.  But wait, there’s more!  Montréal is where the Dominion and Grimm headquarters is, Montréal is where the dealz are, I answer!  I picked one of the worst driving days this season to go it seems, but that’s beside the point.  I borrowed my Dad’s truck and struck out for the promised land!  There were so many tools of the trade on display at Dominion and Grimm that I was like a kid in a candy shop.  I saw the Hurricane evaporator on display that can reach temperatures of 2100 degrees Farenheit (evaporates 2.7 gallons of water per minute!), I saw hulking reverse osmosis machines.  I saw a bottling machine with 4 spouts for increased efficiency.  I saw big coils of bright green and bright blue tubing.  I was blown away by the sophistication of some of the equipment.  Clearly some of that equipment was beyond the scope of my 200 tap, traditional collection operation.  Maybe some day I’ll have a need for all that jazzy equipment but not today.  I bought 20 used buckets, spiles, and cleaning equipment that will make the back-breaking clean-up in April easier.  After packing my purchases into the back of the pickup we slowly made our way back home through the storm. Crossing the city in rush hour traffic with lots of precious cargo in a snowstorm was nerve-racking.  Next time I’ll make the trip in the summer!

Spring Thaw, Maple Melt

Maple Sugarer: A person who taps maple trees to produce maple syrup and other maple flavored products.

As the days get longer and the temperature warms one can tell spring is in the air.  After a long winter of being cooped up indoors to escape the cold, many jump at the chance to enjoy the outdoors again in warmer temperatures.  The tell-tale drippings of melting snow signify a lesser known event as well – the beginning of maple syrup season.  When the temperature raises above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, sap that has been kept in safekeeping in trees’ roots starts flowing up and down the thick trunks of maple trees as Mother Nature prepares the forest for growth.

Maple sap comes from tapping trees in the springtime during that flow, or run as maple sugarers call it.  Traditionally, to tap a tree one drills into the trunk two inches and fills the hole with a spile or spout.  A bucket is hung from a hook attached to the spile.  This allows the maple sap to run out of the spile and fall into the bucket.  

Drip, plunk, drip, plunk, drip, plunk.  The sound of the forest during maple syrup season has a calming quality to it.  It is easy to be mesmerized by the sound.  However, there is little time for that since the run happens for such a short time of the year.  Whomever coined the sap flow a ‘run’ knew what they were talking about – for about 6 weeks sugarers are running around the forest in a frenzy tapping, collecting sap once, maybe twice a day and then spending a full day boiling down the sap in a sugar shack every few days until it reaches just the right density to make syrup.  

Evaporators are used often to boil down maple syrup.  Evaporators are specially made units to increase a fire’s heat efficiency, in this case to make maple syrup.  They can range anywhere from 2 to 12 feet long, depending on the size of one’s operation.  Evaporators have an arch, where the fire is started and the wood is loaded in to feed the fire.  On top of the arch are a set of pans.  These pans have flues in them, little raised inlets which increase the surface area of the pan and this is where the increased efficiency comes from – the more surface area of the pan, the faster the sap evaporates. On boiling days steam rises off the pans in clouds and comes billowing out vents at the top of sugar shacks like clouds of maple-flavored cotton candy!

When the boiling is done everyone breathes a big sigh of relief!  Until it needs to be done again, that is.  The run is a busy time indeed!