About Our Maple Syrup
The syrup-ing season begins mid-February
The syrup-ing season begins mid-February
truly vegan, 100% organic,
and as pure as is possible
All sap from our own trees
made in Small batches
Our syrup is TRULY VEGAN, 100% ORGANIC, and AS PURE as Maple Syrup can be: NOTHING but sap is used, NOTHING ELSE is ever added, and only the water is taken out
Approximately forty gallons of maple sap are required to make a single gallon of maple syrup. This means that any impurity or contaminant in the sap is forty times more concentrated in the syrup.
Most commercial syrup producers have to use things like line conditioners and/or defoamers because of the way they choose to collect sap and the way they choose to make their syrup.
To us that introduces uncertainty, because even when additives are used in the typical small quantities, it is simply not possible to be sure that there are no pesticides, herbicides, or other contaminants introduced from these materials. The same is true for the possibility of plasticizer leachate from collection tubing.
The only way to be absolutely certain of purity is to simply not use these things - and so we don't.
This very much limits how much syrup we can make each year because it takes a great deal longer to make syrup the way we do, and we're good with that. Our goal is to produce the purest maple syrup possible, not the largest quantity.
We avoid tubing by collecting our sap the old-fashioned way; by hand, and are committed to completely replacing the sterile milk jugs we use for sap collection with stainless steel pails as fast as our finances allow. We slowly simmer our sap down into syrup using a stainless steel evaporating pan, so there is no foam to worry about and therefore no need for a defoamer.
This is also why the only cleaners we use on our taps, our collecting pails, our evaporation pans, and all of our other equipment are white vinegar, baking soda, boiling water, and lots and lots of elbow grease. At season's end, we wash all our equipment with StarSan, a restaurant sanitizer, to prevent mold. We carefully rinse everything before using our equipment the next season to make sure we've removed any residue.
We also keep bees, so we are fastidious about avoiding pesticides, herbicides or anything that might harm our bee hives or contaminate our syrup. We are also pleased that our neighbors share our approach and avoid these products as well.
Every drop of sap in our syrup Is from our own maple trees
We want to absolutely control the quality of every aspect of making our maple syrup. By using our own sap from just our own trees, we see what flows from each and every tree, each and every time. If sap seems "off" (yellowish or cloudy) we discard it. We can't be sure that everyone else will do this, so we choose to do it all ourselves. It is a common practice for large producers to buy sap, and even syrup, from other people and then put their own label on it. We won't ever do that.
Besides, we do what we do primarily because we love doing it. We love the quest for absolute purity. We love to be immersed in each and every task, to see how one piece leads organically to the next, blending into a marvelous - even miraculous - whole.
Our syrup is SMALL BATCH and UNBLENDED - EACH BATCH IS ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE
As we mentioned earlier, most commercial maple syrup is produced with an evaporator - a device where sap flows in one end through a set of heating channels to be quickly boiled down, with finished syrup flowing out the other, allowing the efficient, continuous production of syrup. When we started, we couldn't afford an evaporator, so instead we used a custom-made stainless steel pan, simmering down one small batch at a time.
It took a great deal longer to make maple syrup this way, but in doing so we discovered something very interesting. Each batch was different from every other batch in color and also in flavor - and sometimes remarkably so. One time, a light straw color, with an impossibly delicate taste. Other times, a rich amber and tasting of butter. Still other times coffee-dark, with rich caramel and toffee notes. No one is completely sure why these differences occur. However, we can't argue with the amazing results.
Because of this, we've given up any thought of buying an evaporator. If we were ever to expand our production, we will do so by adding another pan and burner and keep making syrup one batch at a time.
We don't actively filter our maple syrup - we let gravity do the work
Standard practice involves filtering syrup to remove the "sugar sand" in order to make the syrup bright and clear. However, we believe that active filtering (often under pressure through diatomaceous earth filters) also removes some of the subtle tastes in the raw syrup. Strictly by accident, we discovered that if we simply let the syrup sit in large sterilized glass jars for a few months, the sediments settle out. And the result is bell-clear syrup, but preserving the flavor nuances. So now, this is exactly what we do with all of our maple syrup, and you get to enjoy the benefits!
Here's how we make it
It all begins with this niggling feeling that winter is drawing to a close. The snow may still be 5 feet deep in places here on Little Farm, but the sun has just a hint of warmth. There may be days when the snow is swirling overhead, but there are other days when daytime temperatures creep above freezing.
That’s when we start looking at the longer-range temperature trends - any time from late January to mid-February before even the first robin has been spied. We’re looking for a weather pattern of 4 or 5 days where the daytime highs are above freezing, preferably reaching into the 40’s, and the night time temperatures fall into the 20’s (Sun and no wind is a plus!). That’s when we know it’s time to put in our 90 – 100 taps.
Our syrup production is all done by hand the old-fashioned way. We do not use plastic tubing and a vacuum pump that sucks maple sap from the trees and carries it to storage and an evaporator. We install all our taps each spring by hand. To minimize damage to our trees, we use “tree saver” taps that are much smaller in diameter than the old-fashioned kind. We remove them when the season is over. That way, each tree heals over the hole – in a couple of months, it is hard to tell where the tap went in.
We hang our buckets and jugs directly on the individual trees, and each day (sometimes twice a day), we collect the available sap, transferring it to sanitized five gallon carboys, and then transporting it by hand-pulled sled or wagon to our evaporating site and stainless steel simmering pan.
There the sap is either added directly to the simmering pan, or it is temporarily stored in a cold snowbank or in the winter shade where it will be added to the pan within 2-3 days. As we said above, we use a simmering pan, not an evaporator. This means we have to make our syrup in batches. Rather than producing large quantities of blended syrup where the goal is uniformity, we like the fact that each of our small batches is unique, each one different in taste and color depending on exactly when the sap is collected. In a typical year, it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. We continue to add sap to the simmering pan until 150-200 gallons of sap has simmered down to just four or five gallons of not-quite-syrup.
As sugars concentrate in our syrup, the boiling point goes up. We use that fact to know precisely when we’ve finished a batch. When the maple sap reaches 219.5 degrees Fahrenheit, it contains 67% sugars: the legal standard for maple syrup. We usually go half a degree further to concentrate even more sugars. We like the velvety mouthfeel of this ever-so-slightly thicker syrup. We think you’ll find it’s just perfect - and perfectly unique!
As we said, the finished syrup is poured hot (+/-180 degrees) into large oven-sterilized glass jars, vacuum-sealed, and stored in our granite basement for a month or so to allow the sediment to settle. When it's time to bottle, we reheat the syrup and pour it into heat-sterilized bottles which are closed with heat-sterilized tops. When they cool, the bottles vacuum seal, protecting the syrup until you open it to enjoy the result of our labors.
All that’s left is packing it and sending it directly to you!