The Dunkley Family
1362 Old Stage Road, Westford, VT, 05494
Call Us 18023247112
Step Five - Grading Syrup
After our syrup is filtered we must grade our final product. The grade of syrup is determined by the color and we compare samples of our batch with samples from an official grading kit. There are 4 grades of syrup that have been condensed down from a 5 grade system which has been used historically. Typically lighter syrup is made in the beginning of the season and darker syrup is made at the end of the season, but this can vary year to year. We encourage you to try all the grades to see what you like best! The darkest syrup (Very Dark with Strong Taste) is best for cooking, while the lightest (Golden Color with Delicate Flavor) is commonly used on ice cream.
Step Three - Reverse Osmosis
Before the raw sap is boiled down into syrup we run the sap through our reverse osmosis unit. Imagine a reverse osmosis as a big filter. Sap is pumped through membranes at a high pressure and because water molecules are smaller than sugar molecules and molecules of other minerals in sap, the water passes through the membranes and the other molecules in sap stay behind. Sap comes out of trees at an average of 2% sugar content and we concentrate the sap to about 12% sugar content. Pure Vermont Maple Syrup is 66.9% sugar content so we save a lot of energy and time spent boiling by concentrating the sap.
Step One - Tapping
In order to collect sap from a maple, a small hole must be drilled in the tree every year. In late January we start drilling (tapping). Typically the maple season begins in late February or early March, so by starting in January we have plenty of time to tap all of our trees before the sap starts flowing. We use an electric cordless drill and a 5/16" drill bit to make a hole about 1.5" deep in the tree. Then we gently hammer in a plastic spout that is connected to our tubing system. It is important that the spout is not pounded into the tree too hard, or else we risk splitting the tree. On the other hand if the spout is not well seated it will cause a leak in our vacuum tubing system which will lower sap yields. Tapping is arguably the Most Important part of sugaring because a good job tapping ensures high sap yields, healthy trees, and less time in the woods fixing leaky spouts. We tap a different part of the tree every year to ensure that one area of the tree doesn't die. You can tell if a tree is healthy and growing quickly if last year's taphole has closed up by the following spring.
Step Two - Checking for Leaks
When all of our trees are tapped and Mother Nature decides to let the sap flow, the real work starts for us. We turn the vacuum pump on and the sap starts pouring into our releaser and then into the tanks. The higher level of vacuum that you can achieve in your tubing system the better. We go into the woods and search for any hole in our tubing system. Squirrels are often the reason for these holes- they chew the tubing to get at the sweet sap. Some of the leaks are big enough to hear, but most of them are only detectable by sight. We repair any leak that we find as soon as possible. Most of the leaks can be repaired in a few minutes or less. We spend a lot of time repairing leaks so that we can gather more sap and make more syrup. Sometimes a windstorm will come through at night and trees fall all over our lines, and we spend the next day fixing broken tubing.
Step Four - Boiling
Only after maple sap is boiled down to a density of 66.9% sugar content is it officially Pure Vermont Maple Syrup. Sap comes into our evaporator at about 12% sugar and as it travels through different sections of the pans it is concentrated higher and higher as the fire below the pans roars. A density gradient is established as water is continually evaporated from the sap and by the time the sap has reached the front of the evaporator, it has become Pure Vermont Maple Syrup. We 'draw off' syrup only when it is the correct density and use a hydrometer to ensure every batch of syrup is perfect. Syrup comes off the evaporator very hot, more than 200 hundred degrees, and it is immediately filtered then put into either barrels or jugs for retail sale. Boiling maple syrup is truly an art and one small mistake can destroy a large batch of syrup. We are very alert while boiling but we also enjoy ourselves. Friends and family come to help or just to relax and watch the steam roll out of the sugarhouse. Sugaring time in Vermont is special- we can expect visitors at any time of day or night to show up unannounced, just because they noticed the steam and knew we were boiling. If you ever are near Westford during the sugaring season, please contact us or just show up at the sugarhouse!
Organic Vermont Maple Syrup
Copyright © William Dunkley