Tapping Maple Trees with Tanya Memme
The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association (VMSMA) is one of the oldest agricultural agencies in the US, and as experts in all things maple! Look for the "Vermont " or "VT " on authentic Vermont Maple Syrup products to ensure consumers are buying pure maple syrup.
Canada and the US used to implement separate grading systems. This was confusing for consumers. So, starting in January of this year, there is a new international grading system for maple syrup. This is what you need to know about the new grades of Maple Syrup: Gone are Fancy, Dark Amber and Grade B. Instead, all syrup will be labeled Grade A, with flavor descriptors like Delicate, Rich, Robust and Strong Taste. • Golden Color and Delicate Taste: Fan of the Fancy Grade? You want Grade A Golden. This delicate and mild tasting syrup has a more pronounced golden color.
Amber Color and Rich Taste: Looking for Grade A Medium Amber and Dark Amber Syrups? They’ve merged into Grade A Amber. This syrup, with a rich and full-bodied taste, has a light, medium, or dark amber color.
• Dark Color and Robust Taste: Fan of the Grade B, or Grade A’s Extra Dark/Dark Amber will look for Grade A Dark. With a robust and substantial taste, this syrup is dark colored and stronger than the lighter color classes. • Very Dark and Strong Taste: Typically used for commercial purposes, and aren’t used for general public is the strongest maple syrup flavor, Grade A Very Dark.
When sap is flowing, collect the sap daily. Pour the sap from the bucket into a food grade storage container, using cheesecloth to filter out any foreign material. If a portion of the sap is frozen, throw away the frozen sap. The sap should be stored at a temperature of 38 degrees F or colder, used within 7 days of collection and boiled prior to use to eliminate any possible bacteria growth. If there is still snow on the ground, you may keep the storage containers outside, located in the shade, and packed with snow. You can also store the sap in your refrigerator, or for longer term storage, in your freezer. Remember that sap is like milk, it will spoil quickly if not kept cold. To make maple syrup, the excess water is boiled from the sap. It takes 40 parts maple sap to make 1 part maple syrup (10 gallons sap to make 1 quart syrup). Because of the large quantity of steam generated by boiling sap, it is not recommended to boil indoors. If you do decide to boil the sap indoors, make only small batches and ensure good ventilation (and keep an eye that your wallpaper does not peel off the walls). If you boil outdoors, make certain you are in compliance with any local regulations. Fire safety must be your highest priority, especially when young children are present. Below is one method for boiling your sap. Heat source: A small pit is dug, using bricks to secure the walls of the pit. Metal bars are secured over the fire to support the pot. A fire is built in the pit with dried, split wood. As it will take several hours to boil your sap into syrup, a sufficient wood supply is required. Other options include an outdoor grill, the kitchen stove (for small batches), an indoor wood stove, or even an outdoor fryer (like the ones used to deep fry a turkey). If boiling indoors, keep in mind that this process will generate a lot of steam. Boiling the sap: Fill a flat pan or large pot (a "lobster" pot is used in this example) ¾ full with sap. Place the pot onto the heat source. Once the sap starts to boil down to ¼ - ½ the depth of the pot, add more sap, but try to maintain the boil. If the sap is boiling over the edges of the pot, a drop of vegetable oil or butter wiped onto the edge of the pot will reduce this. Transfer to smaller pot: The boiling sap will take on a golden color. Once the sap has "mostly" boiled down, but still has a very fluid texture, it is time to transfer the sap into a smaller pot. The outdoor heat source should be fully extinguished at this point. Complete the boiling: Once transferred to the smaller pot, the final boiling can be completed indoors. Continue to boil the sap until it takes on a consistency of syrup. One way to check for this is to dip a spoon into the sap / syrup - syrup will "stick " to the spoon as it runs off. It is important to watch the boiling sap very closely as it approaches syrup, since it is more likely to boil over at this point. If you have a candy thermometer, finish the boil when the temperature is 7 degrees F above the boiling point of water. Note that the boiling point of water differs based on your elevation. Filtering the syrup: A small amount of sediment will be present in your syrup. This can be filtered out of your sap using a food grade filter. A coffee filter is suitable to filter a small amount of sap at a time. After letting the syrup cool, pour a small amount into a coffee filter, collect the top ends of the filter into a bunch, and press the syrup through the filter into a clean container (such as a measuring cup). Depending upon how much syrup is produced, this will need to be repeated several times (using a new filter each time). For larger batches, a wool or orlon filter can be used. You can also remove the sediment by allowing the syrup to stand overnight in the refrigerator, letting the sediment settle to the bottom. Bottle your syrup: Sterilize a bottle and cap (or multiple bottles and caps depending upon how much syrup you have produced) in boiling water. Pour the sediment free syrup into the bottle, cap, and refrigerate. Your refrigerated syrup should be used within 2 months. Syrup can also be frozen (in a freezer safe container) to extend shelf life. For more Lifestyle by Tanya, visit www.TanyaMemme.com and follow Tanya on Twitter @Tanya_Memme!