Maple syrup season is a much anticipated time of year for us at Tranquility.FMT! Setting out the lines, tapping the trees, collecting the sap, and creating sweet product keeps us busy during a time of year when there are fewer projects going on.
In order to make our organically sweet candy and syrup, the trees should be in their dormant state prior to tapping--once the leaves begin to appear the sugars are reduced in the sap and mineral content increases, making the end product bitter. As the days and nights warm up in Spring, the sap spoils faster and must be processed sooner, as much as several times a day! The sap really begins to flow when the nighttime temperatures fall below freezing, but daytime highs are in the upper 30s/lower 40s. We've also found that production on cloudy days is generally less than that on sunny days, but that's not a hard and fast rule. Taps only flow for 6-8 weeks before they stop running. To ensure that we have the time and resources to process all the sap, we elect to tap half of our trees starting around mid-January and the other half sometime in February.
Most people think of Indiana as being flat. The Southern part of the state is not. Our property is mostly steep ridges and deep valleys which allow for the sap to gravity feed downhill to our collection points. This reduces the need for vacuum pumps and other energy intensive equipment. Our sap is then pumped through a solar powered four chamber reverse osmosis (RO) system, which will reduce the amount of water that needs to be boiled off.
The sugar content of the sap coming out of the trees can range from 1 to 3% normally and we typically run near 2%. After going through the RO, we are currently seeing sugar content of 7-9%, depending on how slow we allow the process to work. The concentrate from the RO system is then boiled off in a wood fired maple arch which gives it a hint of smoky favor before the final boil down inside where we have more control on the temperature of the process. The wood we use is a byproduct of our careful forest management. Lastly, the syrup is filtered and bottled to a final sugar concentration around 66%. Each gallon of syrup starts with about 45 gallons of sap which means 3-4 trees. Tap installation in our woods is a multi-day process. Even though we've invested in better equipment to allow us to produce syrup more effectively, it still takes many hours to make. Candy is then made from some of the syrup which takes even more time! After all the snow in February, this coming week looks promising for our second round of taps to be put in. Stay tuned!