Maple Sugaring Season with Silloway Maple
Maple sugaring season – the ten day forecast…. sugarmakers are watching, some are heading to the sugarbush to tap. Others are finishing up logging jobs, or busily making “drops”, the two foot piece of tubing with a spout on one end, and a T on the other. The temperature must rise above freezing in the day, and fall below overnight for the sap to run. Within the next three weeks, our crew will head out with maple tapping equipment, getting the tubing up and tight where there is damage, putting on new spouts, and tapping!
We have a family owned and operated maple business in central Vermont. Our family also has a sixty-five cow dairy, and a firewood and logging business. We have been sugaring for the past seventy years, and our motto is “Silloway Maple – It Runs in the Family”. Twenty four family members (counting little ones) live in six homes along a mile of dirt road, and someone is always available to head for the sugarhouse to give a tour, and sell some of our maple products. We have a new sugarhouse with seventy solar panels (pictured at the top of the post), and still boil the sap over a traditional wood fire.
I start a tour by taking the visitors out back where there is a row of maples along the driveway. There, we have some tubing running from tree to tree, and also some of the old fashioned buckets hanging. Years ago, we hung about twenty-five hundred buckets. Each time the sap ran, we drove through the woods with a bulldozer or tractor pulling a sled with a large gathering tank on it. Tramping through the deep snow to each tree, and lugging the sap to the tank is hard work! In the seventies, we changed our operation to tubing, which runs to each tree, and connects in a system, running to a tank at the bottom of the woods. But we do not just sit back and watch! The tubing is under high vacuum, and any leaks must be tracked down and repaired. Storms and animal damage keep someone running through the woods most of the time.
The sap is hauled to the sugarhouse, where it is run through a reverse osmosis (RO) machine. The sap passes over membranes, which remove part of the water. Raw sap averages 2.5% sugar content, and the RO concentrates the sweet to about 12%. This reduces the time, labor and firewood needed to boil it into syrup.
Boiling Down the Maple Sap
Next the sap flows into the big evaporator. Everyone loves to see the roaring fire, which is fed about every seven minutes. This is a hot job! The clouds of steam rise up and out the open flaps in the roof, though sometimes you can hardly see inside the sugarhouse. The syrup moves back and forth through a system of flues, and is drawn off when it reaches the right density. It is an intense job, to keep the boiling rolling, with no scorching! The finished syrup is graded according to color and flavor, and run through a high pressure filter to remove any impurities and niter, or sugar sand.
We can the syrup in plastic jugs and decorative glass. I make maple cream, granulated sugar, maple sugar covered almonds, and candy. These are all pure maple products, with the syrup boiled to different temperatures. Many studies are showing the health benefits of using pure maple as a sweetener, as it has minerals and antioxidants, and is lower on the glycemic index than other sweeteners. We like to share recipes for using maple in place of refined white sugar. No difficulty finding taste testers!
During sugaring, visitors can climb the stairs in the sugarhouse and look directly down on the boiling syrup. What a wonderful smell! We serve sugar on snow, and big old fashioned raised doughnuts. We even boil hotdogs in sap, as was done long ago.
Sugaring season is short, lasting only until the weather warms and the trees start budding. We make our value added products all throughout the year, and sell at a busy farmer’s market in the capital city of Montpelier. We have a website and facebook page with recipes and photos, and ship our products throughout the United States. I enjoy writing about sugaring, and often share articles with magazines. There is a sign on the sugarhouse door, reading, “For a tour, and to buy maple products, call 802-272-6249”. When the phone rings, we leave the hayfield, dairy barn, or the supper table to greet our guests, and enjoy their company!
Maple Buttons Cookies Recipe
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup peanut butter
- 3/4 cup maple sugar (see instructions below)
- 1 egg
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Maple cream (see instructions below)
Beat butter, peanut butter, maple sugar and one egg together. Add flour, baking powder, and salt.
Chill, then roll into small balls and make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie.
Bake twelve minutes at 350 degrees on parchment lined cookie sheet. Cool, and fill each thumbprint with a small spoonful of maple cream.
To make Maple Cream:
Boil one pint of maple syrup to soft ball stage, about 232 degrees. Cool without moving to room temperature, then stir constantly, until the cream has a spreadable consistency.
To make Maple Sugar:
Boil one pint of maple syrup to 265 degrees. Stir, until all moisture is evaporated, and sugar granulates. Sieve to remove lumps of sugar. Use care when working with hot syrup. Run a bit of butter around the rim of the pan to keep the syrup from boiling over. There will be plenty of cream or sugar left over for the next recipe, or for enjoying on toast.
Or you can order your maple cream and maple sugar at www.sillowaymaple.com.
Maple Popcorn Recipe
Maple popcorn is quick and easy to make.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup maple syrup
Pop two poppersful of corn. Put the butter and syrup in a saucepan, and boil until it reaches 232 degrees, or forms a soft ball on a spoon when dropped by a teaspoonful into a glass of cold water. Stir butter/syrup mix into corn.
Maple No-Bake Cookies Recipe
Very sweet, nice maple flavor. My family likes these with a glass of cold milk.
- 2 1/2 cups maple syrup
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 1/2 cups oatmeal
- 3/4 cup coconut
Boil maple syrup with butter to the soft ball stage, 232 degrees F.
Combine with oatmeal and coconut. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.
This is a guest post by Bette Lambert of Silloway Maple in Randolph Center, Vermont. Beth is the mother of six children, all homeschooled. She wrote “A Farm Wife’s Journal”, and is a maple sugarmaker and homemaker. Silloway Maple is family owned and operated. They recently built a new solar-powered sugarhouse, which will also produce part of the energy used on the family dairy farm. Daughter Laura manages the business Facebook page, Silloway Maple,where you can view photos of their new sugarhouse as well as an extensive library of maple syrup making photos. Their maple products and books can be ordered on their web page, Sillowaymaple.com.
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