Sap & Syrup


Sugarmakers encouraged to stay vigilant on proper hydrometers

Peter Gregg | March 2, 2023

CONWAY, Mass.—Keep an eye on those hydrometers.

Maple experts and government officials are encouraging sugarmakers to keep a keen eye on the hydrometer, making sure that proper density syrup is being made.

“Be careful, they break,” said Howard Boyden, of Boyden Bros. Sugar House in Conway, Mass. during a boil last week. Boyden said he dropped one hydrometer too hard in the testing cup and broke the end off, allowing for syrup to fill up the bulb.

“Make sure you always have a spare on hand,” he said with a laugh. MORE ]


Many syrup hydrometers out of whack, officials say

Peter Gregg | January 3, 2023

RANDOLPH, Vt.—Producers and state officials are checking syrup hydrometers and finding they’re off.

At the state laboratory in Randolph, Vt., weights and measures officials for the Vermont agriculture department so far this year tossed out 6.6 percent of the 11,4126 hydrometers checked. A total of 749 hydrometers were rejected for sale.

“The failure rate has doubled since 2019,” said Marc Paquette, chief metrologist for the Vermont agriculture agency, who oversees the lab testing.
Vermont is the only state in the nation that offers official testing of hydrometers, and all of the big equipment manufacturers send huge batches of hydrometers to be tested there before they are sold back to sugarmakers.

Before the year is over, Paquette and his team in the official Hydrometer Volumetric Room at the state office campus in Randolph are expected to test and verify upwards of 15,000 hydrometers, a record.

Hydrometer checking was also a highlight at the Indiana Maple Syrup Association annual meeting in Greencastle, Ind. last month.

There, Mary Fogle Douglass of Sugar Bush Supplies brought in an official hydrometer testing kit where a weighted test hydrometer is floated in a solution of potassium iodide and compared against the sugarmaker’s hydrometer. MORE ]


Summer sales mixed in New England

Peter Gregg | August 1, 2022

LEBANBON, N.H.—Sugarmakers in New England are reporting mixed results on the pace of summer sales.

In light of sky high gas prices and record inflation, many sugarmakers have concerns over how shrinking discretionary income of consumers will eat into syrup sales.

Charlie Hunt, a sugarmakers from Hillsborough, N.H. said sales at his syrup stand were brisk.

“We’re ahead of last year,” Hunt said during the annual summer meeting of the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association on Saturday at Patch Orchards in Lebanon, N.H.

Alisha Powell of Stuart & John’s Sugarhouse in Westmoreland, N.H. said sales at her farm were going well this summer too.

“We’ve had a lot of wedding orders,” she said.


New maple product could revolutionize industry

Paul Post | May 10, 2022

SAINT-LAZARE, Que.—CDL is planning a 2023 launch of a new product it says will revolutionize the industry.

CDL has spent the past three sugaring seasons developing and testing a liquid sweetener called Nectar, which has the consistent flavor, color and stable storage qualities food companies are looking for.

Nectar is a high brix (60-70 percent) concentrate that includes all nutrients originally included in raw sap coming from the tree.

It is a natural sweetener with healthy benefits that could be used in many different foods and beverages, creating new opportunities for maple market development.

"CDL's goal behind this project is to allow the overall maple industry to gain worldwide market shares into liquid sweeteners," said Maryse Bernier, company marketing director.

"We want to bring this technology on the market in the near future so it can benefit all existing and future maple producers and buyers looking for innovative maple products. We will make it available to any companies that may be interested in the product and technology," she said.


Making good flavor, tips and tactics on getting the best taste

Paul Post | May 7, 2021

SAINTE-MARIE, Que.—It’s all about the flavor.

Joel Boutin, of Quebec, makes thousands of syrup taste samplings each year including many for a large private maple producers club, which he serves as an extension educator and advisor.

A keen observer in all aspects of maple production, he also teaches high school students at a technical school in his area.

But Boutin's greatest area of expertise is "Good Flavor Factors," which was the topic of his presentation during Vermont Maple Conference Week.

Depending on a variety of practices, producers can try to achieve a delicate sweet, vanilla-type taste or the more complex maple flavor that tends to become more caramel-like as the season progresses. MORE ]


Vermont producers sitting on barrels

Peter Gregg | April 20, 2021

HIGHGATE, Vt.—A loose coalition of farmers in Franklin County, Vt. are sitting on an estimated 5,000 barrels of new crop syrup until they get what they feel is a fair price to sell it.

“Every producer I talk to says they’re holding their syrup,” said Jason Gagne of Gagne Family Maple in Highgate, Vt. who boils off 32,000 taps. “Nobody wants to let it go because they don’t like the price yet.”

Gagne stopped short of calling it a syrup strike and said there is no organized effort to keep the syrup off the market.

But he said producers in his county, as well as in Addison and Lamoille counties in Northern Vermont are frustrated with prices offered by packers.

“They know we’re not happy,” Gagne said. “Nobody is shipping syrup because we’re not happy.” MORE ]


Keep an eye on the cake! Filtering tips from the experts

Peter A Gregg | March 26, 2021

ANTIGO, Wisc.—Keep an eye on the cake.

That was the message from filtering expert Jim Adamski of Adamski’s Sugar Bush of Antigo, Wisc. during a webinar on filtering techniques hosted by the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association in January.

“If you are using too much DE the cake will be solid as a rock,” Adamski said. “You will barely be able to push it out of the plate. If it’s hard like a stone and crumbles and breaks apart, you can tell you are using too much DE powder.”

Diatomaceous earth is the common filter aid sugarmakers use to help pass the syrup through the filter sheets and take out the gunk and sand.

Too little or too much can be perplexing for the sugarmaker.

The best way to tell if you got it right is when you break down the press, a nice beige colored cake is formed between the plates.

“If we’re not seeing a nice solid cake then we didn’t use enough DE powder in the process,” Adamski said. MORE ]


OPINION: Producers should demand a better price this season

Phillip Gudgeon | February 23, 2021

WESTBY, Wisc.—It’s a sellers market.Don’t squander this opportunity!

Last season we produced the biggest global syrup crop in history. Now that crop is almost sold out.

It seems the pandemic has been very good for maple consumption.

This has created a need for a good to above average crop in 2021 to satisfy demand. If we have a poor crop, “Katy bar the door!”

Let’s talk about price. MORE ]