The Journey: How Woodlands Maple Syrup is Made

Within every bottle of Woodlands Maple is both an delicious sweetener and an incredible adventure. Our pure maple syrup is more than a breakfast topping: it is part of a story of seasons and of the diverse people who understand the harmony of the Earth.

Many legends swirl about maple syrups’ beginning, but much evidence suggests that long before European settlers arrived, the indigenous peoples living in northeastern North America  discovered they could tap maple trees, harvest the watery sap, and distill this sugary liquid over a fire with stones to make a sweet syrup. They recognized this maple as a source of  energy and nutrition, and incorporated it into vegetable and meat dishes.

Seasons of Maple

The process of making maple has evolved, but the original concept of heating and evaporation remains. Modern maple farmers have perfected the art with new techniques and an understanding of the seasonal cycles of production:

Throughout the hot summer months, the lush leaves of a sugar maple produce the sugar starches that will eventually become maple sap, where they are stored in the root tissues. These sugars spend the fall and early winter months months developing.

Tapping Season

For maple farmers, winter is a waiting game: when the harsh winter cold breaks slightly, usually in February, tapping season has arrived! Farmers They drill a small hole into the tree and gently tap a spout through the hole.

All Woodlands maple farmers adhere to best practices and prioritize the health of our trees over all else --a tree must be at least 10” in diameter before it is ready to be tapped. The larger the tree, the more taps can be inserted, but never more than three. A tree 10-12” in diameter gets one tap.

Sugaring Season

When temperatures are below freezing at night and rise above 40 degrees during the day the sap will expand and is pushed through the spouts. This watery liquid drains through an intricate tubing system directly to the sugaring house where it will go through an evaporation process (maple trees are called “sugar bushes” thus the terms “sugaring house”).

The prime time to collect sap is short, usually between 6-8 weeks depending on the region’s weather and terroir. The early sugaring season is a sensitive time for the flow of the sap: any changes in temperature can delay the flow and impact the yield for the season.

Each tap can collect about 10 gallons of sap - this only yields one quart of maple syrup. With each passing week of season, the grade of the maple syrup changes. Delicate, subtle flavors are harvested early, while richer flavors are seen towards the middle. Later in the season, the deeper and more robust maple flavor develops.

Processing

When the sap has been collected, it goes through an evaporation process to remove the water and create the thick, delicious syrup. The evaporator is heated to 219ºF until it is caramelized. The sugar-maker needs to be vigilant during this phase as too little heat will produce a watery syrup, and too much heat can burn the maple. Once the thermometer reaches the golden number-7 degrees above its boiling point--it has transformed to syrup and is ready to be taken off the heat.

It doesn’t end there: the sugar-maker filters the syrup for any remaining sediment and and grades for color and most importantly, flavor.

Warmer spring days bring an end to the sugaring season: once the maple tree’ buds appear it signifies the end of the tapping season, as the chemistry of the sugars in the tree have changed. Any sap collected at this point can result in off flavors. Sugar-makers pull their taps and allow their precious trees to heal and prepare for the following year’s tapping season. When the tapping and boiling ends they get busy bottling and selling the fruits of their winter labor.