Maple syrup production report for March 24 to 30, 2014

Previous week activities

No large sap flows have occurred yet in the province.   In early areas of southwestern Ontario producers have collected and combined several sap flows to enable boiling batches of syrup.   Syrup crop yield ranges from six to twenty-five percent of a normal crop.   Producers in central and later northern regions report no sap flow or very little sap flow so far.  Colour grade ranges from light to medium and no problems with filtering to clear the syrup.   Many producers finished tapping their trees last week during thawing conditions.

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Photo 1.  A range of 6 to 25% of a maple syrup crop has been produced so far in early areas of the province.  Would you change anything in this facility?  The lighting here should have containment protection added if the bulbs should shatter, similar to food processing facilities.  While cozy, some producers may prefer a little more width to this room to work safely around a hot evaporator.  Photo credit: Brian Bainborough, LAPIERRE Equipment.

Mainlines buried three feet underground, plus under several feet of snow remain frozen with sap in several early area sugar bushes.   Fresh snowfall in central areas added another 20 cm late in the week making tapping difficult.

Weather conditions in Quebec for syrup production are similar to Ontario.  Cold weather has kept the buds on maple trees dormant, therefore trees are still good for sap collection.

Predictions for the coming week

The extended weather forecast predicts temperatures will remain too cold for sap flow until later in the week.  Early regions of Niagara and southwestern will have two or more good sap flow events beginning Thursday through to Sunday.  Central and northern regions should also have the first good sap flows on Friday and Sunday of the coming weekend.

Producers will be trying to collect and process every drop of sap into syrup to ensure a maple syrup crop.  While maple trees in sugar bushes are still very dormant, warmer weather and increasing sunlight will begin to push buds on trees to develop, particularly in southern regions.

Preventing mould in packed maple syrup

Preventing mould in packed maple syrup can be a challenge.  Cold-packing syrup usually guarantees mould will grow in bottled containers and can impart off-flavour in the syrup.  The commercial maple industry has requested to the provincial government that hot packing be made mandatory for producers and regulated to prevent mould, to ensure food safety and to uphold the reputation of Ontario maple syrup as a quality product.

Maple researchers at the University of Maine and at Carleton University in Ontario are investigating whether current hot packing recommendations require refinement to preserve quality and prevent mould in syrup.

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Photo 2.  Mould growth often forms at the surface of the syrup in unopened containers that are improperly hot packed.  Mould can also develop in maple syrup after the sealed container is opened and is not refrigerated during consumption.  Always refrigerate maple syrup after opening sealed containers.

Fresh maple syrup is usually filtered immediately after being drawn off the evaporator while it is still hot.  Immediately after filtering to remove sugar sand, the syrup is either hot packed at 85 °C into bulk food-grade containers, or the syrup is hot packed at 85 °C into new small containers of various sizes for direct market sales.

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Photo 3.  When bottling maple syrup into small containers for direct marketing, the syrup should be hot packed at a temperature of 85 °C.   Securely cap each container as it is filled and then place the container on its side or upside down for 5 to 10 minutes to ensure the hot maple syrup contacts and kills all spoilage organisms that may be present in the top neck and inner lid surface of the bottle, jug or can.   To ensure mould-free syrup, each sealed container should be held at the hot temperature of 85 °C for at least 5 minutes.

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Photo 4.  Many syrup producers compete locally at annual fairs and industry meetings to be selected for producing the best maple syrup, maple candy, maple butter and granulated sugar.   Here, Canadian and U.S. winners are highly respected at the annual International Maple Syrup conference.

All syrup containers that are intended for direct market sale must be made of brand new material that has not been previously used.  Containers for syrup are made of glass, metal cans or plastic jugs and should be clean, free of any hazard inside and ready for hot-packing.   Proper containers are available from reputable maple equipment suppliers.  Do not use containers or lids that cannot tolerate the recommended hot-pack temperature of 85 °C.  Containers must be filled to a minimum of 90 percent of the container volume.

Glass containers need to be preheated prior to hot packing otherwise the syrup and glass will cool down too quickly to provide adequate sterilization of the pack.   Pre-heating is particularly important in smaller glass bottles that do not hold enough mass of hot syrup to remain hot long enough.    Some producers have had good results where glass containers are preheated in hot water or in a warm oven.  Protective gloves made of silicon, or heavy-duty rubber will provide a better grip on preheated bottles as they are filled with hot syrup.

Preventing stack burn

Stack burn occurs where hot-packed maple syrup is kept at the hot temperature for an extended period beyond the normal sterilizing treatment.  The syrup can continue to cook darkening the colour grade and affecting the flavour of syrup.  After the hot-pack period of 5 to 10 minutes, place the containers on a table spread apart in a well-ventilated area where they will cool down quickly.  Some commercial producers now store small packed containers and bulk storage containers in cold storage to ensure the quality is preserved.

Recognizing Asian Long-horned Beetle

Invasive species of insect pests, diseases, plants and animals are causing an increasing amount of destructive grief for both agriculture and forest industries, and concern for the ecological integrity of our natural resources.  Some invasive species are more damaging than others and pose a greater threat.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, researchers, provincial specialists and affected industries are kept very busy prioritizing each invasive threat and allocating adequate resources.   Attempts are made to eradicate  the invasive problem, or prevent or reduce the rate of spread from the initial point of infestation.  Each threat must be evaluated separately for the correct action.

The Asian Long-horned Beetle is known as a highly destructive pest to a number of deciduous tree species with sugar maple among its favourite.   In Ontario the first infestation of Asian Long-horned Beetle was recently eradicated from Vaughan north of Toronto.  A new smaller infestation has recently been discovered near the Toronto airport.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is currently removing infested trees and other host trees near the infestation site to, once again, attempt to eradicate the infestation. 

It is important for all workers in the tree-based industries of forestry, horticulture and arboriculture, as well as the general public, to recognise and identify Asian Long-horned Beetle if it should appear.  Public awareness has proven to be a key in finding all occurrences of Asian Long-horned Beetle. 

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Photo 5 & 6.  This is an adult of Asian Long-horned Beetle (left).   Adults have white spots on a shiny black body, the antennae are as long as the body with alternating white and black segments, the legs are black with patches of blue colouration.  The adult beetle (right) is compared in size to a 5/16 inch sap spout.  The wood is a branch slice from a damaged sugar maple showing tunnels chewed by the larvae.   This dead specimen originated from the first known infestation in North America near Brooklyn and Amityville, New York in 1996, where it was successfully eradicated.

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Photo 7 & 8.  The large pupal chamber and exit hole that is chewed open when a new adult first emerges from the host tree is round and equal in diameter to a 7/16 inch spout, slightly larger than a 5/16 inch health spout.  The exit hole looks identical to an old tap hole, which would make it more difficult to spot on a maple tree that has been recently tapped for syrup.

Asian Long-horned Beetle does not respect international boarders, or provincial or state boarders.  We must work together towards a common goal.  Detailed information and photos of Asian Long-horned Beetle in Ontario and in the U.S. can be found at the Canadian Food inspection Agency website, or see the USDA APHIS website at: asianlonghornedbeetle.com

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