Sap to Syrup — How Real Maple Syrup is Made
You may wonder what makes real maps syrup real. Real maple syrup comes from a maple tree. While maple trees don’t exactly produce maple syrup, they do produce the sap that we turn into maple syrup.
The “maple syrup” that many Americans put on pancakes isn’t actually real maple syrup. Most of the maple syrup that you find at the supermarket (like Aunt Jemima and Log Cabin) is essentially maple-flavored sugar.
In short, real maple syrup is concentrated maple sap with no other ingredients, whereas artificial maple syrups are corn syrup with maple flavoring.
The Syrup Season
The season for maple syrup is actually very short. It begins as winter is coming to an end — often in late February or early March — and only lasts for about 4-6 weeks. There is no set time for when the harvesting should begin. Sugarmakers will look for signs that spring is coming to determine when to be
Sugarmakers will prepare for the annual maple sap harvest by setting up their buckets or sap tubing systems to gather the sap. Before any harvesting can begin, all equipment must be perfectly clean and in good condition.
How Is Maple Syrup Made?
The first step in making maple syrup is tapping the maple trees. This means drilling a hole into the trunk of the tree so that the sap can be collected. During the 4-6 weeks of the syrup-making season about 10 gallons of sap will be collected from each tree. This is a very small portion of their total amount of sap and does not hurt the tree.
There are two common methods for gathering sap from the trees: the bucket method and the tubing method. For the bucket method, sugarmakers will hang the bucket on the tree so that it can collect the sap coming out of the tap. It is more common today for sugarmakers to use the tubing method. This method uses plastic tubes to collect the sap in one centralized location. Once collected, the sap must be evaporated as quickly as possible. The fresher the sap the better the quality of the syrup. The collected sap is evaporated in a sugarhouse with large, flat pans. Sugarmakers use wood, gas, or electricity to heat the sap until it turns a deep golden color and reaches 7.5 degrees over the boiling point of water. This evaporation process is what turns maple sap into maple syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to make a single gallon of maple syrup. The water content goes from 98% (with only 2% sugar as sap) to only 33% (with 67% sugar) when it becomes syrup.
The process of making real maple syrup from maple sap is quite hands-on. Additionally, the short syrup-making season directly affects how much syrup gets made each year.
The intensive process and quantity of real maple syrup each year leads to a more expensive syrup. For some people, this can be the deciding factor in what type of syrup they get. But for some people, the deciding factor is the taste. Many people actually prefer artificial maple syrup over real maple syrup — especially in the U.S.
Whether you‘re a fan of real maple syrup or artificial maple syrup, we hope that this article helped you learn about how maple syrup is made!
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February 23, 2022 @ 8:54 pm
Thanks Dustin. I enjoyed this article and learned something new. Every syrup I see in the store is high fructose corn syrup.
Let’s hope they come out with the med-beds soon.
February 24, 2022 @ 1:20 pm
Great article on the subject of how maple syrup is made. I enjoyed reading it; it was very educational! Thank you!
March 2, 2022 @ 9:16 am
Always loved REAL maple Syrup over mapke flavored sugar. Thanks for the information Dustin!