From a distance I could smell the maple syrup in the air and see the clouds of steam in the sky. This was the second ‘weekend open house’ for the Platte Creek Maple Farm, owned by Chris Genson and Pete Lavalle.
During the open house visitors were invited to observe the syrup production process and enjoy a scrumptious breakfast of pancakes with dark syrup. The process is fascinating and because of the limited harvest period (six to eight weeks), it requires long hours, dedication and hard physical work. Pete patiently explained the steps …
Spiles (taps) are inserted into holes in the maple tree trunk. The sap is clear and runny like water and it flows into a tubing system or bucket.
External temperature variations enable the sap to be harvested. When the temperature is above freezing, pressure inside the tree forces the sap out of the spile. When the temperature drops below freezing, internal pressure drops, suction develops and the roots take up water which replenishes the sap. These fluctuating temperatures last about eight weeks during February and March.
When the trees form buds the harvesting is over because the sap develops an unpleasant ‘buddy’ taste. Red or Black Maple trees can be used, but the Sugar Maple has the highest sugar content, best flavor and longest season.
A system of gravity tubing is in place. Gravity draws the sap down the tubes towards a stainless steel collection tank at the rear of the sugar shack.
The blue vacuum pump above the stainless steel collection tank increases the quantity and speed of syrup extraction. When there is about 1,000 gallons of sap in the tank, the evaporation process starts.
Wood is used to heat the Evaporator which boils the maple tree sap.
Inside the Sugar Shack…
Behind these doors, a reverse-osmosis process forces the sap at high pressure through a membrane and removes some of the water. A pre-heater warms the sap before it goes into the evaporator.
The evaporator boils the sap, removes water and concentrates the solids (primarily sugar). Sap is about 2% sugar – syrup must contain 66% to 67% sugar on the Brix scale (a measure of the sugar content of an aqueous solution)
The correct boiling temperature for the sap varies by day according to the barometric pressure. When I visited the optimum boiling temperature was 218.5 degrees F.
This bucket will be filled with syrup from the evaporator.
The sugar content of the sap determines how many gallons of syrup can be produced from it. For example, if the sap has 2% sugar it would take 43 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.
The bucket of syrup is poured into the finisher.
The syrup is filtered.
These color standards are used to grade the syrup – the darker the syrup, the more intense the flavor.
Syrup is stored in bulk and then bottled in glass or plastic containers.
This bottle contains Grade A Dark Amber syrup. Dark Amber has the strongest flavor – a sweet caramel-maple flavor. It is great on pancakes or french toast and is the preferred syrup for making baked goods. Delicious!
The Plattekill Creek runs through the farm. It was named by the first European settlers who were from the Netherlands. ‘Plattekill’ translates as ‘flat creek bed’ in the Middle Dutch language.
When the harvesting season is over the taps and tubes are removed, cleaned and stored for the following year.
Platte Creek Maple Farm
808 Glasco Turnpike, Saugerties New York
Tel: 845 853 4240
- Would you like to try some Platte Creek Maple Farm syrup? Adams Fairacre Farms or other local stores carry a great selection.
- If you are in New York during February/March, check out the Maple Weekend events. There are about 150 producers who host open weekends