Mead's Maple Syrup
It is maple syrup season again and the first question people ask is what type of year we are expecting. They believe that heavy snowfall in winter must mean lots of maple sap in the trees or a dry winter means less sap. But for as long as I have been producing Meads Maple Syrup with my family, I have not found any winter weather pattern that can predict the outcome of a syrup season so my answer is a sheer guess. The weather pattern sugarmakers do depend on, however, is springs warmer temperatures and cooler nights. The freezing and thawing temperatures (below freezing at night and around 40 degrees during the day) helps to build up pressure in the trees causing the sweet sap to flow. Needless to say, my family and I listen and watch the weather closely during syrup season.
As we wait and watch for the signs of sugaring weather there is much to do before the sap starts running. Today instead of buckets that hang on trees to catch the sap, we have miles of tubing lines to stretch and check. The colorful lines zigzag through the sugarbush in a dizzying fashion that challenges our brain to keep them in order. We then drill holes in the trees, tap in the stainless steel spouts, and attach the lines. This is an arduous task but their efficiency is worth the labor, although we still contend with squirrels and bears that love to bite into the tubing that carries the sweet sap.
The lines then carry the sap either by gravity or a vacuum system to the sugarhouse where it is filtered through a reverse osmosis machine. This machine separates most of the water from the sap and leaves the sugar solids. It is effective and reduces boiling time from a ratio of forty gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup to about eleven gallons of sap to one a gallon of syrup. Gone are the days of boiling for eight to ten hour shifts and cranky maple syrup producers.
Once the sap has had its water content reduced it then goes to the evaporator. There is no experience that compares to inhaling the sweet maple scented steam that billows from the sugarhouse. As the water evaporates and the sap thickens, hundreds of golden bubbles form in the front pan. This signals that the syrup has reached 219 degrees and is ready to be drawn off. The syrup is then filtered, adjusted for density, and graded for flavor and color.
Although things may change in the industry the love for producing delicious pure maple syrup has remained the same. When we first started over thirty years ago, I believed there should have been some type of warning label issued for the beginner, such as Beware: Sugaring may be addictive". Once maple syrup does its magic, there is no turning back.
Jude and her husband,Winter Mead, (pictured above) are regarded as masters syrup makers. Meads Maple Syrup, too, is recognized throughout the country as one of the most respected, energetic, and innovative maple productions delighting maple syrup lovers around the world.