The process of making maple syrup remains basically unchanged since it's inception. Excess water needs to be removed from the sap, which is approximately 2% sugar, and boil it until it reaches 67% sugar. It takes approximately 43 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.
To produce maple syrup, a stand of maples are needed. Both red and sugar maples can be tapped, although sugar maples are preferred for their higher sap sugar content. A tree cannot be tapped until it has reached 8-10" DBH (diameter at breast height) which takes approximately 40 years. To get the sap from the tree, a hole is drilled in the trunk and a spout is driven in the hole. The traditional method of collection is to hang buckets from the spout. This is labor intensive because buckets must be collected every day. The modern method is to connect the spout to a tubing system which transports the sap to a collection tank.
The sap is then transported to the sugar house where it is filtered and pumped into the evaporator. Both wood-fired (traditional) and oil evaporators are commonly used. The evaporator has a large firebox which generates lots of heat to boil the sap in the pans. The evaporator boils off the excess water and the heat caramalizes the sugars in the sap to give syrup its unique flavor. Once the syrup has reached the proper density, it is filtered and bottled into various containers.
Unopened maple syrup can be stored in a cool, dark place for 1-2 years. Opened syrup should be stored in the refrigerator. Maple syrup can be stored indefinitely in the freezer. If, after extended storage, mold should form on the surface of the syrup, the original quality can be restored. Remove the mold, heat the syrup to boiling, skim the surface, sterilize the container, and refill with the syrup.
Maple cream is made by boiling maple syrup to approximately 235F and putting the vessel in an ice bath until the concentrated syrup reaches 80F. It is then put in a candy or cream machine which stirs the concentrated syrup until sugar crystals form. Once it's reached the proper consistency, it is considered maple cream and is packaged in glass jars. Maple cream is excellent on toast, pancakes, as a cake frosting, and many other uses. Maple cream should be stored in the refrigerator for short term storage (1-2 months) or in the freezer for long term storage (1-2 years). It is common for the cream to separate a bit during storage. If this happens, just stir the syrup back in.
Maple candy is made in a similar fashion as maple cream, except the syrup is boiled until it reaches 245F. It is then cooled until it's less than 200F, put in the candy machine which turns it into candy and poured into various molds. The next morning, we remove the candy from the molds and soak the pieces in a concentrated maple syrup which sugar coats the candy. Sugar coating gives the candy a longer shelf life and helps to preserve their quality. Maple candy has a long shelf life and does not need to be refrigerated.
Maple syrup contains 68% carbohydrates, while most other syrups contain 100%. While it has virtually the same caloric content as white cane sugar (50 calories/Tbsp), maple syrup contains significant amounts of calcium (20 mg/Tbsp) and potassium (35 mg/Tbsp), small amounts of iron and phosphorous, and trace amounts of B vitamins. Its sodium content is low (2 mg/Tbsp).
*Information from Cornell University
States which Produce Maple Syrup
Maple trees strive in cooler climates and because of that fact, maple syrup is made in the northern tier states of the United States. You can find maple syrup production from Maine to Pennsylvania, Ohio to Minnesota and all the states in between. *
To have maple sap flow from maple trees requires below freezing temperatures at night (24 to 30 degrees) and above freezing during the days (38 to 44 degrees). Maple trees should be 10 inches in diameter or larger to be tapped. It takes approximately 40 years for a maple tree to grow to that size.
The New England states- New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut account for 57% of all the taps in the United States. In 2006 the United States produced 1.45 million gallons of Maple syrup. Vermont is the highest producing state followed by Maine and New York.
*Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, Indiana