I had no idea how maple syrup was produced until we visited Howell Living Farm! What a great educational trip for our homeschool class. I left with an abundance of knowledge and hands on experience to really affirm what was taught.
Did you know there are 4 types of maple trees they use to make syrup? The sugar maple, black maple and red maple and silver maples, sugar maple being the best for production. Today Canada produces more than 80% of the worlds supply, making 6.5 Gallons per year. In Vermont the US produces about a half a million gallons per year.
Did you know what causes the maple tree sap to flow? Early in the spring when the maple trees are still dormant, temperatures rise above freezing during the day but cool to freezing at night. This fluctuation in the temperature is how the sap moves up and down the tree.
Below is a tree stump with various taps that have been used over the years. Wood ones that the farm allows you to make by hand as an activity. There are various taps that date back hundreds of years, all for the same purpose, to collect the sugary liquid gold.
First you tap a Sugar Maple
The staff walk you through the plentiful woods, where they show you how they pick the tree. They explain the distance you need to put the tap from areas that have been tapped before prior years. They explain the process by which there is window of time to tap the tree to produce sap. How often you are suppose to empty the buckets when the tree is producing sap. They also explain how sap is to be cared for like milk. Keep in a cool area and needs to be processed within a week.
Pour sap in jugs to bring to the Sugar Shack
Another fun things our family was able to do, is collect all the gallon buckets off the tree's to pour in large containers to bring to the sugar shack. After all the sap was collected the farm staff come by with horse and carriage to pick up all the valuable sap so the farmer can cook down to make Maple Syrup.
The staff walk you through the plentiful woods, where they show you how they pick the tree. They explain the distance you need to put the tap from areas that have been tapped before prior years. Thy explain the process by which there is window of time to tap the tree to produce sap. How often you are suppose to empty the buckets when the tree is producing sap.
This is where all the fun happens! Here in the sugar shack, the farmer puts all the sap in a vat that feeds down to the cooker. In this cooker evaporates all the extra water and leaves the sugar maple syrup.
This is the machinery needed to produce our delicious maple syrup, plus a well ventilated space. The farmer says do not cook inside your kitchen! Cooking down sap can leave sticky reside all over everything so this farm has a special Sugar Shack shed.
After the sap is cooked down, the farmer strains it with a thick wool cloth. This keeps a sandy residue out of your bottle that is less than appetizing.
After the syrup is strained a final time the final product is ready for bottling, to sell and eat. The farm works with a company to label and sell there product in their gift shop. However they do have a limited supply and don't always have it for sale.
Our family had a fantastic time at this farm! We learned a lot and got physically assist in the process! If you live or can visit this farm in NJ, I would advise it. https://www.howellfarm.org