Warming temperatures herald not just the arrival of spring, but the start of maple syrup production.
Once temperatures enter a freezing-thawing cycle, sap collection begins. This year’s season was delayed several weeks thanks to January’s arctic freeze and February’s insulating snowfall.
Tim Sternitzky, owner of The Maple Dude in Granton, collects sap with a tubing system which uses vacuum suction for greater yield.
“We get more than just hanging a pail on a tree and letting gravity do its job,” said Sternitzky. “Something like that will yield twice as much as your traditional methods.”
During a collection season, the store might bring in roughly 160,000 gallons of sap and is always looking for more producers to purchase more from. Maple syrup equipment and supplies are available at the store.
After collection, about 80% of water is removed from the sap through an efficient process called reverse osmosis. “The raw sap collected from the woods is really low in sugar content, like 2-3%,” said Sternitzky. “We put it in our stainless steel tanks, it goes through reverse osmosis, then into the evaporator.”
The evaporator takes the concentrated sap and finishes the cooking process to make maple syrup. This year, the Maple Dude converted from a wood-fueled system to a natural gas evaporator – a cheaper, cleaner, and more consistent source of heat compared to firewood.
Around this area, it takes about 35 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, The Maple Dude’s most popular product. Besides syrup, the store produces a range of products including maple sugar, cream spread, candy, and even cotton candy.
“People are getting more into maple syrup products as a replacement for sugar,” said Sternitzky. “I’ve seen that become a lot more popular.”
The season typically ends around mid-April but varies depending on the weather. Though sap collectors had to brave extra snow this year to tap their trees, the end product is worth it.
Those interested in watching the new cooking process or simply getting their sweet fix can attend Maple Madness II on Saturday, March 23 from 10-1 p.m. at The Maple Dude, located on W1417 US Highway 10, Granton.
Visitors will get to sample the new maple fudge and other sweet maple treats including lollipops, pancakes, almonds, popcorn, coffee, root beer, and cookies. Hats and shirts will be given away.
Learn more at TheMapleDude.com/news.