Before Maple Sugar must come Maple Syrup. The best pure raw product comes from maple trees, whose starch is converted to sugar between winter and spring, resulting in sweet, runny sap. This sugar is born and raised on a Vermont family farm that has been in the Maple business for five generations.
Maple syrup season in Vermont occurs in a very small window of about 4 to 6 weeks, with sap flow being the heaviest for only 10 to 20 days. This high-volume period of sap flowing is called a “run.” Sap only flows as the tree is either thawing out or freezing. Ideal conditions are warm sunny days (with temperatures above 40°) along with cold frosty nights (below freezing). Harvest season ends around late April with the arrival of more consistent warmer spring nights which brings bud development in the maple trees. The amount of sap needed to produce a gallon of Maple Syrup depends on the sap’s sugar content. 1% sugar sap needs about 86 gallons to make one gallon of Maple Syrup, while 2% sugar sap requires around 43 gallons to produce one gallon.
Maple sap is made into maple syrup by boiling off water, which increases the sugar content. Once the sugar content has reached 66%, a critical chemical reaction occurs which darkens the syrup and provides its characteristic taste. At this stage the syrup is done and is removed to cool.
To produce maple sugar the sap continues to be boiled until enough moisture has evaporated to allow for crystallization. At this stage it’s vigorously stirred (either by hand or by machine) until it turns completely granulated. It takes approximately one quart of syrup to produce about 2 pounds of granulated maple sugar.
Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as cane sugar, with a subtle but distinct woodsy flavor.