In early to mid February, when the nights are cold, less than 25* F, and the days are warming, above 40* F, the Sugar Maple tree prepares itself for spring. The tree’s root system sends sap up the trunk of the tree to the leaf system. At night, when it is cold, the tree senses that it is too early for spring, and all the sap runs back down the tree to the roots. This cycle of cold nights and warm days is when the sap collected.
To collect the sap, a 5/16” hole is drilled into the trunk of the tree about 2” deep. A spout is tapped into the hole which holds the collection bucket. The tree should be about 12” in diameter to install a tap. If the tree is larger than 18” in diameter, we will usually set 2 taps. In 2012, we set 400 taps.
Initially we used mostly gallon milk jugs which we collect all year long. In 2009, we installed a vacuum and tubing system to make sap collection more efficient. During the sugaring season, each tap will produce about 10 gallons of sap. The sap, made up of 98% water and 2% sugar and it takes about 50 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. In 2011, we collected about 5000 gallons of sap.
Each day, the sap is collected and carried to the sugarhouse for boiling. Sap must be boiled everyday or it will spoil like milk. We use a 6’x 2’ Leader Evaporator which can evaporate about 25 gallons an hour. The evaporator is wood fired and we spend most of the off season cutting and splitting firewood. In 2010, we added a reverse osmosis machine which removes 2/3 of the water from the sap before we put it in the evaporator. Now we can process about 75 gallons per hour.
When most of the water has been evaporated, leaving sap that is about 60% sugar, the sap is drained off from the evaporator for finishing. The sap is poured into a gas fired finisher which allows better control over boiling the sap. The sap is boiled until it reaches 219*F which is the temperature of finished syrup. We also use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the syrup to make sure that it is properly finished.
When the sap is finished, it is filtered, heated to 180*F and put into containers. In 2018, Durham Sugarhouse made 150 gallons of syrup.
We hope you enjoy our Syrup
Russ, Leslie, Kyle, Cory and Erin Hassmann