Sap harvest and syrup processing activities – March 12 to 18, 2016
Over the past week in Ontario, maple syrup producers in most regions have been diligently boiling fresh sap into syrup as the 2016 sap harvest season progresses. It is still too early to estimate the final syrup yield for most areas.
Evaporator photos: Bob Gray’s sugar house
Early southern regions: Soft maple trees are now in flower and taps have been pulled out of the soft maple trees. Sugar maples are still holding onto dormancy, although buds are swelling and will likely begin to produce buddy off-flavour sap sometime during next week. Sap sugar concentrations are decreased now to 1.5 ⁰Brix in sugar maple trees. Producers who have reverse osmosis are benefitting significantly with cost efficiency.
Medium (amber) grades have been processed this week, although the flavour in the first medium was more typical of light syrup. The flavour intensity should increase this weekend and early in the week, which may be the final sap runs for early areas. The syrup crop yield ranges from 60 to 100+ percent, depending on earliness of tapping.
Mid-season regions: Buds on soft maple trees are swollen in early stages of bloom and sap will have buddy off-flavour. Sugar maples are still dormant enough for good quality sap. Sap flow is forecast in some areas for mid and late next week, following a brief period of freezing nighttime and daytime temperatures. Snow is pretty much gone in sugar bushes.
Sap sugar is measuring 2 to 2.5 ⁰Brix. Medium (amber) grades are reported with good rich flavour. The syrup crop yield ranges from 30 to 70 percent. North of Brockville, some producers have boiled nine out of ten previous days.
Late season areas: Maple trees remain dormant in northern Algoma, Algonquin over to Ottawa Valley, with up to 1 foot of snow still in the sugar bush. Sap sugar ranges from 1.8 to 2.5 ⁰Brix. The syrup crop yield ranges from 25 to 40 percent so far, light and medium (golden and amber) colour grades. Filtering syrup has been a little problematic with sugar sand, but still coming clear with extra effort.
Algoma and Algonquin producers report that wind has been a problem preventing good sap flow conditions and jostling trees and sap tubing. Manitoulin Island producers are finding sap sugar at 2.5 ⁰Brix but are still hoping for better conditions for sap flow. Deep freezing conditions are forecast this weekend to mid-week, which will freeze up the trees again and stop sap flow until late next week.
Filters for maple syrup
Maple syrup producers filter their syrup, often when it is still very hot right off the evaporator. There are various types of filters available, from small hobby cone filters to large commercial pressurized filters that can process large quantities of syrup quickly. Maple equipment dealers can help new syrup producers decide which model suits their operation best and how to use it.
Refrigerated storage for maple syrup
The majority of maple syrup producers rely on hot packing of fresh syrup into barrels for bulk storage and hot-packing into retail containers to maintain quality. Storage of maple syrup is often located in a cool dark area of a clean room or in a basement of a farm building. Many producers are satisfied with this traditional practice.
Recently, a few producers have invested in refrigerated cold storage to store their bulk maple syrup and retail containers that have been properly hot-packed. Modern storages are designed with ceilings, walls and floors that are easy to clean and sanitize.