Maple growers pleased with season’s success begin tapping birches

The North Country maple syrup season ended last week for most producers, with record production and high quality syrup.

Adam Wild, manager of the Uihlein Maple Research Forest near Lake Placid, says he and his team have been through long days and nights over the past two months, but it was worth it.

NCPR caught up with Wild, which says it added more faucets and produced more than 3,000 gallons of syrup this season, the facility’s best year.

Todd MoeMaple producers satisfied with the syrup season

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

ADAM SAVAGE: For us here in Uihlein Forest, we had some of our first sap flows in mid-February. I think February 23rd we had our first boil, which is early for us in this season, and then it just kept dragging on. We made a lot of syrup in March where I would say most of our syrup is made more in the first or second week of April where we had over half of our harvest by the end of March which was tremendous.

It was a bit of an early start and good sap flow days so lots of flow. When the weather was right to get a lot of sap at the beginning of the season, where sometimes the start is a bit slow for this flow. And then, making good syrup ended a little earlier than usual. Our last good sap flow came on April 14th to fix, we’ll call it “table grade syrup” that can fit in a retail bottle, because then it rose – I think that day- there you have entered the 70s.

It started to spoil the sap and the buds started to swell, so it was a bit early for us. But because we started earlier, this actual duration, we had a big extended sap flow season. In those days we just had good weather patterns where it would flow for a few days where we got these really heavy flows. And then we had a nice cold spell that recharged the trees for a day or two and then we started to flow again.

We’ve had some wild rides – it’s hard to keep up with that sap. It was happening so fast. It’s a good problem to have.

TODD ​​MOE: What are you doing now? Do you still boil some of that sap? Did you finish making maple syrup there?

WILD: We have finished making maple syrup here at Uihlein Forest. Most of the maple syrup producers were almost all finished last week, when we were done. It was by making what we call “commercial” syrup that the syrup became what we call “buddy” syrup. It’s called buddy syrup because the maple’s buds start to swell. It gives off flavors in the maple sap that some people actually say is almost like a sort of Tootsie Roll flavor, which doesn’t sound bad, does it? But it’s not what it should be, that expected flavor in maple. There is a bad flavor.

You are also starting to get musty. With warmer weather the sap starts to ferment and you also get some acidity.

So overall, it releases flavors. It’s usually sold for commercial purposes, so it’s used in food processing, a large food processing production. It’s not going into your ice cream or your yogurt or your coffee or something like that, but to be used on a very large scale in food production. Most of the growers I’ve talked to, the bigger growers, are going to continue this commercial season. Some people, once it starts giving off that buddy flavor, they’re completely done. Lots of growers have been doing it for a few weeks now.

MOE: So, it can be said that overall, from what you heard and your own experience there in Uihlein, you are happy with the season.

WILD: Yeah, good syrup, we made about 3,400 gallons of actual finished syrup this year out of about 7,600 taps, so we’re really happy with the season. This was the most syrup we’ve ever made here at Uihlein Forests, but we added taps here. From all the data I have, this is actually the most syrup we’ve made per tap. It was a record year for us, so from there I’m happy.

MOE: Let’s talk about another tree. Sap wants birch and you wanted to mention that now that maple season is over some people have moved on to other tree syrups.

WILD: Yeah, so just because the maple is over doesn’t mean sugar season is over for us, which presents challenges because sometimes you just want to take a break, but you still want to keep going.

This is that time for birch, so unlike our maple where we want freezing and thawing temperatures, over 20s at night and in the high 30s, low 40s during the day for maple. For birch, birch actually, like high 40s, plus 50, 60, 70 degrees a day, maybe 40s at night, that’s when the birch sap flows.

So that’s when the buds swell and their sap is pushed up those trees, so it’s not freezing and thawing. It’s just the warm weather with the sap growing naturally in the trees that we collect this birch sap from the tree.

As soon as the maple is done, we tap all of our birches and start collecting that sap. Just last week we went out and tapped all of our birches. We only prune about 500 birches here, so it’s on a smaller scale, but we can actually make syrup from these birches.

About Mildred B.

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