It is Maple Syrup season. When the temperature rises above freezing during the day and drops below freezing at night, sap in trees starts to flow. This sap is made up of sugars, water, and nutrients that the tree stored during the summer.
Many trees can be tapped to make syrup. Trees in the Birch, Walnut and Maple family all make delicious syrup. In Ohio, Sugar Maples are the most popular to tap due to the high sugar content in their sap. Beginning in January or February trees are tapped and collection buckets are hung. A Maple tree needs to be about 40 years old and at least 34 inches around before it can be tapped!
Maple sap is about 2% sugar and 98% water. To make syrup the water from the sap needs to be evaporated until you get to a desired sugar content of 66%. Boiling off the water results in the amber color and flavor of finished Maple syrup. It takes approximately 43 to 50 gallons of finished sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. See the comparison of the sap to syrup ratio.
Traditionally Maple Syrup is evaporated over the heat of a wood fire. This wood fire evaporator has multiple chambers that allows for sap to be added as syrup is removed for a continuous cooking process.
Maple Syrup comes in different grades. In the beginning of the season the syrup will be light in color with a more delicate, vanilla flavor. As the season goes on the color will become darker and the maple flavor more pronounced. The season is over when buds form on the trees, making the finished syrup bitter.