Ask Santa for a New…Hydrometer!!

This year’s Ohio Maple Days welcomed back the free hydrometer testing service that folks had come to expect from Dr. Gary Graham’s days of leading the annual Ohio maple event.

As part of the tri-state (OH – WV – PA) ACER grant, we built out at least 1 full hydrometer testing kit for each state to ensure accurate hydrometers are in the hands of maple producers in order to produce top-quality maple syrup.  A big thanks to Carri Jagger for leading the charge on this initiative, we figured that she and I tested somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-90 hydrometers during Saturday’s program.  These are rough estimates, but I would guess around half the hydrometers tested within +/- 0.2 Brix of perfect.  1 out of every 10 hydrometers read heavier densities than they should have, and the remainder – close to 3 or 4 out of every 10 – read light compared to the standard.

For a bit more complete explanation and how to make sense of the Hydrometer Testing Bookmarks, let’s explore a couple scenarios.

The first scenario is that your hydrometer reads the exact same as our standard testing hydrometer.  This bookmark shows a best case scenario and this is exactly what that means.  We chose to test everyone’s hydrometer against a test solution of 60.0 Brix.  In other words, we mixed a test solution to read 60.0 Brix on our standard hydrometer and checked everyone else’s instrument against the truth of that standard.  Choosing 60.0 Brix as the test line is somewhat arbitrary, we could have chosen 62.0 or 64.0 or 65.7 if we were really feeling inspired.  The bottom line is that within a certain range, an inch is an inch, and if your ruler is really truly measuring 24″ where it says 24″, the same ruler should also be spot on when measuring something 30″ long as well.  The same concept applies here.  Known density is 60.0, your hydrometer reads 60.0, and your glass, paper scale, and hydrometer is in great condition.

Heavy Syrup LLC and Wimpy Syrup & Co. are both less than ideal hydrometer testing scenarios.

Wimpy Syrup & Co.’s hydrometer is reading heavy even though their hydrometer is in good condition from a wear and tear perspective.  The effect of having a hydrometer that reads heavy is that you’ll likely be producing syrup on the underside of optimal density.  In other words, you’ll pull your syrup off early because of the heavy reading and may not finish all the way up at the perfection standard of 66.9 Brix.

Heavy Syrup LLC has the opposite issue.  Because their hydrometer is reading light, syrup will probably get left on the evaporator a tad long and finish at a higher density than the industry standard.  Hence, we can see that the directional error in hydrometer reading leads to syrup that finishes in the opposite direction.  A heavier reading than truth leads to lighter syrup. Lighter readings lead to heavier syrup.  The additional issue with Heavy Syrup LLC’s hydrometer is that the paper scale has become twisted, likely as a result of a glue dot detaching, eliminating any hope of accurate density readings in the future.  Throw that hydrometer away.

Hopefully this post sheds some light on why hydrometer testing is important.  A big thanks to all the producers who brought one or two or five hydrometers to be tested.  We will plan to offer the same service at Ohio Maple Days going forward and add a second testing beaker for sap hydrometers at next year’s event.  Syrup density is one of the key diagnostics to ensure we produce quality maple syrup and accurately reading density is an important skill as a sugarmaker.  If you have a hydrometer that you know is off, toss it in the garbage and ask Santa to put another in your stocking ASAP.

 

Upcoming Maple Events

Working from long-range calendar planning to close-range events, we are excited about the upcoming slew of maple events.  There is literally something for everybody!

Join us for the 2023 Ohio Maple Days in Ashland, Ohio, December 8th and 9th for 2 days of instructional workshops, food and fellowship, and a Saturday full of technical talks for both advanced sugarmakers and beginners.  We kick things off at 1 PM on Friday with a value-added workshop that will teach participants how to make maple sugar, maple cream, maple candy, maple cotton candy, and even some maple-infused breakfast sausage links.  The Ohio Maple Producers Association is hosting a maple contest with banquet blowout Friday night with the full conference agenda on Saturday.  During Saturday afternoon, we are excited to offer a beginner’s track to explore the basics of maple and an advanced track that will focus on sugarhouse design, marking your woods for a crop tree release timber harvest, and more.  And by popular demand, we are bringing back hydrometer testing – so please mark your calendars for December 8th and 9th.  We will post the registration details as soon as they go live.

Lake Erie Maple Expo is slated for November 10-11 in Albion, PA.  This popular event has an excellent list of sessions and speakers on tap for participants.  I for one have never been in attendance but will be changing that this year.  I hope to see a few familiar faces there!

The week prior to LEME on November 3rd and 4th, the Ohio Maple Producers will be hosting their annual meeting – stay tuned or check their website for details!

Sturbridge, Massachusetts, will be the hosting location for this year’s North American Maple Conference from October 25-28.  This is the BIG show with an absolutely packed slate of tours, meetings, technical workshops, and great meals.  You can find registration details here.  If that’s not enough for you, the International Maple Grading School will be offered October 29th and 30th just down the road in Grafton, MA.

A bit more local, we are excited to be offering a tandem webinar/workshop in collaboration with the University of Kentucky.  The webinar – evening of September 11th –  will be a basic introduction to all things maple in order to whet new producers’ appetites and lure them out to the in-person event in Boone County, KY, on Monday, October 16th.

Sandwiched in between those 2 events, please consider joining us down in southwestern Ohio Saturday, September 16th for a workshop in partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo.  Registration details are live on the Ohio Woodland Stewards Program website.  In conjunction with the workshop, participants will have a chance to shop and browse at the Zoo’s Native Plant Nursery there on site at Bowyer Farm.

And last but not least, Pennsylvania is hosting Maple Boot Camp on September 6th-8 prefaced by a Maple Grading Workshop the morning of that Wednesday.  Boot Camp is the brain child of the 3-state OH/PA/WV, and it is the Keystone State’s turn to host.  We are excited about this in-depth, deep dive into maple sugaring and hope to repeat the success of last year’s Boot Camp in Ohio.

I’ll be sprinkling reminders here and there as different registration deadlines loom, but I hope to cross paths with you at least once, if not multiple times, throughout the fall maple programming season.  Lots of options to choose from!!

Raising the Bar on Syrup Quality

Maple grading and syrup quality are major topics at just about every maple winter meeting. Why has this topic taken on a heightened sense of importance? What is driving this interest? As the popularity of maple syrup products continues to grow, we are introducing more new customers to pure maple syrup. As interest grows, so does the number of questions about content, grading and nutritional value.  Consumers are curious!

What is the difference between pure maple syrup and table syrup?

Is pure maple syrup truly a superior product?

Is pure maple syrup worth the higher price?  

In most stores, you can find maple syrup right above the pancake flour. Shelf space is minimal and is often shared with Log Cabin, Mrs. Butterworth, and other corn syrup derivatives. The first thing consumers notice is that pure maple syrup is substantially more expensive. They may also take time to read the labels. The lower priced competition has a multitude of ingredients. Many ingredients are difficult to pronounce and not something a savvy customer wants to consume. So, they gravitate to the pure maple syrup which contains only one ingredient, Pure Maple Syrup. Many assume that because they are paying a premium price it must be a premium product. Consumers today assume a direct relationship between price and quality, and for the most part, do not mind paying a premium price for something they truly enjoy.

You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression!

There is variability in pure maple syrup sold across the country. There are USDA Standards for color and density. Density is straight forward, at least 66.0 or 66.9, depending on where you live. But grading standards by color can be confusing. To add even more mud to the water, many states do not require grading; color grading is voluntary. Remember, much of the syrup marketed in the US, especially outside the maple producing regions, is sold in box stores.

Most of the time, syrup sold in a box store is good syrup. It is sweet and with an excellent maple flavor, but occasionally there is a surprise. Until a bottle of syrup is opened and tasted, a bad bottle of syrup often looks exactly like good syrup; although, there is a tendency for poor quality syrup to wear a more generic label. You might compare buying a generic bottle of syrup to buying a box of “Cracker Jacks”, you are wondering what sort of prize will be inside. Customers can avoid bad surprises by buying from local producers who confidently and proudly attach the name of their operation to the label.

The flavor of our maple products is the single most important aspect of maple grading. Flavor more than anything else sells the product; however, grading for flavor is also one of the least understood aspects of quality syrup production. Syrup flavor varies for a multitude of reasons. Some would say it is subjective, but it is not. Each grade has its own identifiable and unique flavor profile. Because each grade is unique and prized for its own reasons, blending grades is discouraged and should be avoided. However, blending syrup grades is not restricted and it does happen. So, what exactly happens to flavor when two grades of pure maple syrup are combined to achieve a more desirable color? To put it simply, colors blend but flavor does not. Blended syrup might look attractive, but the flavor is just off. While the average consumer may not detect the difference, a discerning palate will.

If the following principle is true, for every effect there is a cause, off-flavored syrup can often be traced back to mistakes made by the producer. No one who has ever run an evaporator will deny that. Ten minutes too long on the evaporator, poor sanitation or running too late in the season, can all result in off flavors and sub-standard syrup. Mistakes happen, and in most cases, they are not intentional. That syrup should be allowed to enter the on-the-shelf marketplace. To salvage the syrup, these mistakes often end up in a barrel sold on the bulk market for whatever price the producer can get. This is what everyone does, right?!

Overall, the industry does a good job of grading density and color and is gradually placing more emphasis on quality. However, it is the responsibility of everyone involved to know when something has gone wrong. Because we are selling a food product, we need to know where to draw the line. We need to encourage producers who want to learn more about the process of making quality maple syrup to attend local or regional maple grading and quality workshops. While state regulations may enforce a bare minimum, a state’s producers should strive for better than just barely passing. Raising the bar on maple syrup quality can only be achieved through mutual cooperation and education at all levels of the industry.

 

Footnote: Substandard syrup quality and grading errors aren’t just a brick-and-mortar problem.  Check out this article from The Maple News, courtesy of research done out of University of Vermont, that examined online syrup sales and these exact same issues.

December Ohio Maple Days & Grading Workshop

Don’t forget to register for the Ohio Maple Days meeting scheduled for December 11 in Ashland.  We have a limited number of seats, so don’t delay too much in getting in those registrations.

We are also excited to host a syrup grading workshop on Friday, December 10th.  Please consider making a couple days of it to participate in both the workshop and the main event on Saturday.  Registration for the syrup grading workshop is on the Woodland Stewards website.

See you there!

The Ohio Maple Syrup Season: Moving Forward?

budded-red

Photo caption: Red Maple in Middlefield Township, Geauga County, Ohio, March 1, 2017

It is March 2nd, and we have just witnessed the warmest February on record in the Cleveland area. The 77 degree day that we experienced on Friday, February 24th, shattered every record for a high temperature in the month of February, and it was also the highest winter temperature in Cleveland for any winter month. The way the month of February ended cast a dark shadow on our ability to make maple syrup in Ohio. Now we are in March and the cold temperatures have come back but where does that leave us?

Many trees have already budded out. All of the silver maple and many red maples that are out in the open have full buds. The sugar maples though have not yet budded and this is one of the main reasons why we prize and select for this species of maple. Given the conditions we have had to date, one thing is for certain – if you have not tapped yet, the potential to make a significant amount of syrup is gone. The next warm spell will likely end the season for everyone.

Now let’s address the producers that have been making syrup and have the potential to make more syrup. If you have red maples, make sure you look at them very carefully or just pull the taps, especially trees in the open such as along a field edge or road side. Several producers with large populations of reds have called it quits altogether due to budding. For those with sugar maples, the potential is there to make more syrup, but you need to be careful not to spoil that sap by collecting sap from red maples too that have already budded.

At this point, a producer’s biggest enemy is bacteria. Everything needs to be cleaned out and drained. You could literally see high levels of bacteria building in the lines and tanks over the previous week of warm weather. Many producers just kept the vacuum pumps running during that period and hoped for the best. Many collected a fair amount of sap due to weather fronts that pushed through. I am certain it paid to operate the pumps keeping lines clear and tapholes as cool as possible. If you shut off the vacuum because the trees quit running, I hope you were using check valves because this would have given you some degree of bacterial protection at the taphole.

Now that the cold weather has returned, what kind of syrup will we make? The answer will come once your fire up the evaporator. If the sap is “buddy”, you will know it. And if it’s not, you’ll most likely be producing a darker grade of syrup. That is not necessarily bad because most producers made a good batch of Golden Delicate early on. If the producer chooses, the two could be blended but taste will determine that. You can blend for color but you cannot blend for taste. If your syrup has a slight off flavor from sour sap or budding, it will show up in the blended grade. There is virtually no way to mask a syrup’s off flavor once it is there, and there is no reason to ruin good syrup that you have already made. That is why some producers already chose to call it quits rather than risking a batch of off-flavored in the sugarhouse.

Producers that tapped in early January have had an average season. The biggest question is, after last year and this year, have we established a new normal for Ohio maple syrup production or maybe the two distinct zones of production in Ohio are just consolidating. I say this because if you produce syrup near the Ohio River, you would normally tap in January. If you live in NE Ohio you would normally tap in mid-February. Maybe we are now seeing a climate shift that will establish a universal tapping date for the entire state. After this year, producers must finally realize one can no longer tap solely by the calendar. If you produce maple syrup in Ohio, you must to be ready to go by New Year’s Day. If the season does not start until February, so be it – but at least you will be ready. Climate change is just that – change, and the only certainty in life is change. We change our systems, we change our tapping technology, we adapt.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Using the New Maple Syrup Grading System as a Marketing Tool

Two years ago this fall, the maple syrup industry completed the adoption of a new system for grading syrup. The process took a long time starting back in 2011. The International Maple Syrup Institute took the old USDA Standard grades that included USDA Grade A Light, Medium and Dark and Grade B and transformed them into four Grade A categories that would include all saleable syrup. Two important additions were the flavor descriptors and the %Tc (light transparency) range. This allows consumers to compare grades based on flavor, and the new system also opens the door for standardized instruments to be used for color determination.

The four Grade A categories are Golden Delicate, Amber Rich, Dark Robust and Very Dark Strong. You will find that Golden Delicate parallels the old Light Amber Category. Amber Rich includes all of the old medium and the very top of the Grade A Dark Category. Dark Robust includes the rest of the of the Grade A Dark category and the very Top of the old Grade B Category. The Very Dark Strong Category includes the rest of the syrup that was formally classified as cooking syrup. Most very dark syrup that is produced and does not have an off flavor or a density problem will fall in the Very Dark Strong category. If syrup has an off flavor or does not meet the minimum 66 Brix level or overshoots the maximum 68.9 Brix standard, the product will be marked as commercial syrup and priced accordingly. It should be pointed out that the retail price in most markets does not change for any of the top 3 grades, and many producers sell their Very Dark Strong syrup for the same price.

The new grading system allows producers to not only sell syrup based on color but also on flavor.  After all, flavor is what sells maple syrup! Flavor is a component of maple syrup judging that is quite subjective. Everyone has their own idea of what maple syrup should taste like. It is almost unfair to put maple syrup in a jug that has not been graded. It would be like labeling a cut of meat as beef. You as a consumer would be buying a package of meat without knowing if you were taking home a Porterhouse steak or stew meat. Today’s consumers are getting smarter about what they buy. Why would you try to sell them mystery syrup that could be Very Dark Strong, Golden Delicate or something in between? Your business would be missing out on an important part of marketing, interpreting and understanding what the consumer truly wants.

There is however, one word of caution about selling graded maple syrup – the grading better be right! Accurately grading your syrup is where spectrophotometry comes in. Today, for 60 to 80 dollars you can buy a Hanna Checker. There are more accurate and expensive models available for commercial packers, contest and grading fanatics, but even the most basic instrument is based on the transmission of a beam of light through the sample. As the product darkens, the percentage of light transmitted (%Tc) decreases. Once you have a reading, you match the %Tc light transmission reading on the device to the %Tc range of one of the new grades. Each grade has a unique %Tc range. Over the last two months putting together my maple syrup evaluation programs, I have had a chance to look at dozens of samples of maple syrup, some graded and some not. Many times these samples were so close it would have been impossible to grade accurately on a handheld temporary grading kit. This new instrumentation makes it easy to grade syrup and at an economical price point. This is just another evolution in the syrup maker’s production cycle that is grounded in pure science – start to finish.

Overall the new grading system has been well received. At many fairs and shows, we have heard conversations about the characteristics of each individual grade. Implementing sample tasting is a great way to interact with your customers. The customers themselves seem to really like the Amber Rich grade but more and more are trying and enjoying Dark Robust. This has been a learning experience for both producers and consumers alike. It is important to note that grading in many states is not mandatory, and Ohio is one of them. The other factor to remember is that most consumers are not familiar with how maple syrup is graded. Most consumers compare your maple syrup to your average table syrup which has no identity. I believe this is where maple producers can learn from the wine and craft beer industry. Those industries have built entire marketing campaigns around highlighting the various unique characteristics of their product. Is it out of the realm of possibility that we might someday include a tasting room in our sugar houses? Think about it, this could add a whole new dimension to the way we market maple syrup.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

Things You Can Do to Ensure the Quality of Your Maple Syrup

This post is in response to Dr. Michael Farrell’s article on maple syrup quality from the most recent Maple News. First let me say that the article was not only excellent but very timely. The article addresses an issue that all maple syrup producers should consider as another season is upon us. What I hope to do is highlight some of the areas in the production process where syrup quality can be compromised often resulting in off flavors. The University of Vermont and the Vermont Ministry of Agriculture has provided an excellent tool for identifying the sources of off flavors in maple.

After producing maple syrup for over 40 years and teaching seminars on maple syrup production for close to 20, I have made or personally witnessed most of the common mistakes that lead to off flavors and poor syrup quality. In this article I will go over some, but certainly not all, of the factors that lead to poor syrup quality. The good news is that most of the factors can be controlled by producers with best practices, in turn meaning you control the quality of your syrup. The Map of Maple Off Flavors (linked above) identifies 5 primary areas where off flavors occur: Mother Nature, defoamer, processing, chemicals and others. I want to address each area in order of how they would occur from start of season to finish.

When you start out the season, you need to be aware of several problem areas that can lead to off flavors. Most problems arise from the previous season’s equipment maintenance and show their ugly faces as the new season kicks off. When producers ask how they should clean equipment, my response is with a lot of water and elbow grease – and my answer is the same from large-scale producers all the way down to backyard hobbyists. Anytime chemicals are used to clean equipment, residuals left behind can compromise flavor. If you use chemicals on your pans to clean them at the end of the season, you need to thoroughly scrub away any chemical residue. If you use a tubing cleaner, make sure it is flushed entirely from the system. If you store filters make sure there is no mold on those filters when you dig them out of storage. (And never use detergents to scrub away mold on filters, THROW THEM AWAY!) The list could go on. A final guideline for this area is to always store your chemicals in a secure place away from your syrup processing so as to avoid unintended contamination of your final product. Most of the above is common sense but they need to be mentioned.

Probably the biggest culprit for off flavors comes during the processing stage. This is where the majority of mistakes are made that result in off flavors. When we grade syrup, we look at 4 primary areas density, color, clarity, and flavor. Even though each is judged separately they are actually all interrelated. Syrup must be 66 Brix to meet USDA standards and if it is below 66 Brix it can ferment and cause an off flavor. Syrup above 67 Brix normally does not have an off flavor but the higher density can cause crystallization in the bottom of each container resulting in lost revenue to the producer. As syrup moves across the front pan, density and color changes rapidly. Density changing with the rapid removal of water that increases sugar concentration, and color as heat changes the sugar molecules. Anything that interferes with flow of sap through the evaporator can cause the syrup to get darker and possibly cause an off flavor. Many feel that density is the most critical part of the process and at times reaching the proper density can be very difficult. Improper density management can lead to two off flavors that are very common in syrup – fermented and scorched. And these off flavors are often accompanied by undesirable colors as well.

We use three tools to measure density, the hydrometer, the thermometer and the refractometer. All sugarmakers use a hydrometer. Hydrometers should be inspected or checked for possible problems and replaced if suspect. Often the paper with the scale printed on it can slip resulting in the wrong Brix reading. Hydrometers can become coated with film resulting in inaccurate readings. A good hydrometer will give you an accurate reading only if it is used at the right temperature. Temperatures below that require consulting a chart to convert to the right Brix reading based on the specific temperature. Maple syrup boils at 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water or 219 degrees, and many producers use a thermometer to determine the draw off point. The only problem is that the 219 reading is only accurate if the barometer is at 29.9 Hg barometric pressure. Therefore, a thermometer needs to be recalibrated every time the barometric pressure rise or falls. Having an accurate syrup temperature is especially vital when it comes to setting an automatic draw off.

The final tool is what many consider the grand judge and jury of maple syrup density – the refractometer. For a refractometer to work properly, syrup must be finished and stable in temperature. This was pointed out the other day in a conversation with Robert Crooks of Marcland Instruments. For a refractometer to work properly, it has to be able to refract light coming through the sample and that can only be done accurately if the sample in the instrument is a clear finished sample. Taking a sample of cloudy unfiltered syrup will lead to an inaccurate reading. The temperature of the syrup also affects light refraction. Even though refractometers are built to automatically compensate for temperature, temperature must be stable. If you leave freshly drawn off syrup set in a container, it will continue to evaporate water until it cools down. Think of what happens to a pot roast when you pull it from the oven, it continues to cook beyond the temperature when you pulled it from the oven. This is why it is best practice to cover containers of hot unfiltered syrup in order to stop moisture loss. If you use a refractometer to set the draw off, run a sample of syrup through your filter and allow the sample to sit for 15 minutes before taking your refractometer reading. This will give you the most accurate reading from your refractometer.

If you use a conventional auto draw-off, be aware that it takes time to complete the draw off process. This means that syrup will be drawn off over a range of temperatures. Therefore set the draw off to actuate slightly below the desired temperature and it will finish slightly above. Using a hydrometer is the best way to set your draw off. However, make sure you are reading the hydrometer at the recommended syrup temperature. You can use a refractometer but remember it must be used on a finished, stable-temperature product, and this process may take more time than you have to make a correction on the draw-off.

As sap moves across the evaporator, a temperature gradient sets up. Ninety percent of the water is removed by the time the sap reaches the middle of the front pan, so syrup needs to move from the middle of the syrup pan to the outlet relatively fast to avoid darker and denser syrup than desired. A common mistake is to allow the pans to cool during the firing process. Anytime you cool off the pans, the temperature of the sap drops and this causes the boiling temperature to drop resulting in the sap on one side of the gradient to mix with sap on the other. Keeping constant and stable heat levels on the front pan is must and particularly crucial for wood-fired evaporators.

Another problem is foam control. Excessive foam in the back pan can cause problems with your float and may interfere with your ability to control the level of the sap in the evaporator. If this happens you will need to use a defoamer to control the problem. When using defoamer, the only place the defoamer should be added is at the point where sap enters the rear pan, and occasionally a couple of drops if needed at the draw-off if foam builds up as you are drawing off. This should be done at regular intervals placing the prescribed number of drops (2 drops per foot of width) where the sap enters the evaporator. Never spray defoamer across the front pan to control foam. Using defoamer in this manner will impede the boil and break down the temperature gradient. This can lead to the dreaded big batch.  If the front pan is foaming excessively, then the foam is not being properly controlled in the back pan, correct the problem back there. Use only small amounts of defoamer, excessive use can result in an off flavor. Organic producers must use safflower or canola oils which are very poor defoamers. And be careful with organic products as well because an excessive amount can produce off flavors.

Another potential problem (there are a lot of them, right?!) is niter build-up which can lead to scorching in your evaporator. Any niter build-ups will insulate the bottom of the pan from the syrup creating a potential hot spot which can eventually result in a scorched spot on the pan. You must keep liquid in contact with the pan at all times. Always keep your pans as niter free as possible by rotating sides or using a clean set of pans between batches. Using a good syrup filtering system to remove niter is vital if you want to produce syrup that meets the highest clarity standards. You should be able to read newspaper print through a sample bottle of syrup that has been properly filtered. Cloudy syrup with a lot of niter can produce an off flavor. Remember every time you heat your syrup to a boil, more niter will precipitate out and needs to be re-filtered. That is why you do not want to bring your syrup to a full boil when canning. 185 degrees Fahrenheit is the required temperature for canning.

As maple producers, we fight the growth of bacteria through our entire system. When bacterial colonies multiply in sap, they convert Sucrose sugar molecules to Glucose and other invert sugar molecules. This increase in invert sugar, when exposed to heat, will lead to a darker finished product. This is most prevalent at the end of the season when the bacterial content of sap is at its highest. Bacteria can affect the entire process of making syrup from the taphole to canning. Because sap has sugar content, it is a perfect media for bacterial growth. It goes without saying you can never be too clean when it comes to making syrup. Sap needs to be collected in clean equipment, it needs to be kept cool, and it must be processed quickly. If you start with a properly sanitized system at season’s beginning, you will have far fewer issues at season’s end – though issues may still crop up. Maple producers need to know when to end the season. Producing syrup late in the season when the trees are near budding and the sap is out of peak condition has little value to you and even less to the industry’s customers.

As you can see, there are many factors that a sugarmaker must consider in order to maintain the highest standards of product quality. From equipment sanitation to efficiency throughout processing, paying attention to details is critical and is what separates the best producers from the rest of the pack. Making the highest quality product possible should be your goal. Your reputation as a maple producer depends on it.

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension