Class was over on Sunday afternoon at 4pm leaving us the whole evening free.
As you can tell from the sunshine, it had been another blissful autumn day in the UP --75+ degrees and sunny, amazing quality of light as evening crept ever closer.
When Tammy asked if I’d ever seen maple syrup in production I had to tell her no. I hadn’t. But I am always very interested in seeing how things are done.
Before I knew it, she had arranged not only for me to tour the Tassier’s Sugar Bush business, but invited me to a cook out!
This is PURE MICHIGAN, ya’ll! You’ve never tasted anything so good as hotdogs roasted on sticks over a bon fire of maple wood and eaten them out doors. And to top it all off there was home made apple pie. I just couldn’t say no!
The sugarhouse, from the back
From the Tassier’s website:
Anyone who lives in Northern Michigan knows that the smell of boiling sap is one of the first signs of spring.
The sugar maple sap starts to flow when the late winter nights are still cold and the days are beginning to warm. That's when the sap is collected and processed to become maple syrup and maple sugar.
A tapped tree normally produces up to twelve gallons of sap during a good year. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
This is how they USED to collect sap!
Spring’s warmer temperatures coax sugar maple trees to turn stored starch back into sugar. Sap is made as the tree mixes ground water with the sugar. The sap is mostly crystal clear water with about 2% sugar. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make each gallon of maple syrup which has a sugar content of 66.9%. A typical sugaring season lasts 4 to 6 weeks.
This is how they do it now!
See all the tubing?
A pattern of freezing and thawing temperatures (below freezing at night and 40-45 degrees during the day) will build up pressure within the trees causing the sap to flow from the tap holes. The sap from pipelines is drawn quickly back to storage tanks at the sugarhouse or a central collection area using a vacuum pump, while sap from buckets must be gathered by hand and dumped into a gathering tank which transports it to the sugarhouse.
Everywhere you look amongst the acreage you will see blue tubes criss-crossing like a giant spider web!
Each spring new holes are made in the tree ((Old holes heal and scar over)) and a plug is inserted into the hole, the sap is drawn down the tubing to a collection area.
Beautiful maples, not yet turning color!
From the storage tanks, the sap is often put through a reverse osmosis or RO machine taking a percentage of the water from the sap before boiling. The evaporation process sends clouds of sweet maple scented steam billowing from the sugarhouse.
An evaporator is where the boiling takes place. Stainless steel pans sit atop an arch, or firebox, where either oil or wood, or even propane creates an intense fire. As the water in the sap evaporates, the sap thickens and as the sugar caramelizes it looks like hundreds of golden bubbles.
Because it was September, and not March, I wasn’t able to see the boiling and water extraction process, but I was able to taste samples of different grades of syrup from light to dark. The darker ones have the most flavor. The pale golden syrups, sometimes called fancy, really don’t taste like anything.
There were syrups infused with vanilla by floating a vanilla bean inside the bottle, and the same with cinnamon—a cinnamon stick was placed in the bottle, transferring its flavor to the syrup. I think the cinnamon one was my favorite!
There is nothing like pure maple syrup. No imitation maple flavor will ever do for me again!
Michigan maple products are available from the Tassier’s Sugar Bush Website!
Or if you find yourself near Cedarville, MI give them a drive by for an in-person taste of “Pure Michigan!” They’ll be happy to show you how it’s done!
Today it is chilly and windy up at Buck Mountain. The rain has passed, but it has definitely left autumn in its wake.
It’s a great day for staying in and sewing away!
Have a great Saturday, everyone!