Every year, it starts anew. The weather conditions in the forest change gradually between winter and spring. The peak of sugaring usually occurs between the middle of February/early March, until the close of April and the beginning of May. It’s about 8 to 10 weeks in Quebec.
In any sugar plant, the entire year’s production of organic maple syrup happens within 20-25 days! The duration of the season varies across regions since the season is likely to be drawing to a close in the southwest part of the province, while the sap harvest further to the east and north is only beginning.
1. Tapping The Trees
In the months of January and February, the maple farmers visit their trees to make holes in the trees and then install taps. Each tree can take up or three taps dependent on the size of the tree. The maples will then be joined by tubes that are several kilometers long.
2. The Sap Flows
The sap for the production of maple syrup is derived from two species that are the sugar maple and the red maple. In the summer, trees produce sugar through a chemical reaction with the sun, a process known as photosynthesis. This process converts sunlight to chemical energy.
This sugar content allows cells in the tree to breathe, encourages growth, and is stored in the roots of the tree to provide starch for winter’s sleeping. The moment spring arrives temperatures can vary from day and night, causing the sap to flow upwards and downwards inside the trees.
Warm temperatures during the day make the wood of the tree expand. The sap flowing through the branches is put under high pressure and runs into the trunk pouring out the taps. If it is cold again in the evening, the wood shrinks to squeeze out the flow.
More sap flows into the tree through its storage in the roots. This is a process that happens due to the previous summer’s photosynthesis.
3. Harvesting The Sap
In the early years when there were maple forests, people were able to collect sap by tapping into the tree and then hanging an empty bucket over it. The pails would then fill up and then be emptied into a barrel mounted on a sled or wagon which was then driven by horses or a tractor, to the sugar mill where it was boiling.
Today, in the majority of processes, taps are installed into trees and then connected to a tube system.
The tubes connect to bigger collector pipes that transport the sap, via natural gravity or by mechanical pump, straight to the sugar shack.
4. Concentrating Maple Sap By Reverse Osmosis
The tubing system places the sap in stainless-steel containers. It is then transferred to the reverse osmosis process which uses high pressure to decrease the amount of water in the sap. This increases the sugar content, and also reduces its evaporation process, thereby saving energy.
5. Maple Sap Becomes Syrup Through Evaporation
Within the evaporator, the sap is simmered for a few hours at temperatures of 104 deg C until the sugar level and other molecules reach the level of 66%. This is referred to as 66 deg Brix.
It takes on average 40 liters of sap to create one 1 liter of syrup from maple.
6. The Maillard Reaction
The process of evaporating sap that a more amazing feat of magic that happens in the process of chemical transformation known as”The Maillard reaction. “Maillard reaction.” The amino acids present in the sap react with sugar, which causes it to become brown.
This is when it transforms into syrup, a natural process that creates the distinctive flavor of organic maple syrup as well as its desired color scent, aroma, and antioxidant properties.