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March/April - Peak Harvest Season

Welcome to JEM Maple's Harvest!

Traditionally, March - Early April is sugaring season in Vermont.

Due to Climate Change and an uptick in unpredictable weather patterns,

maple syrup producers must be ready to harvest by the end of January.

In recent years, Vermonters have seen the season start as early as February

and last through mid-April.

 

This year followed a more classic weather pattern with temperatures in early March

just below 32F at night with a sunny, steady rise to between 38 - 45F during the day.

But, these ideal conditions were immediately followed by a sudden, prolonged heat wave -

Remember:

If temperatures stay above 32F, sap will run for 2-3 days but then

requires a "recharge" . This is why a fluctuation between day and night

temperatures is crucial for a steady flow.

If temperatures stay above 32F and there isn't another freeze,

the season is over.

Luckily, before we experienced too many sunny (glorious but potentially season-ending) days

and nights with lows in the 50s, Mother Nature sent us snow.

Harvest typically lasts a very short 6 weeks.

That's only 6 weeks to make an entire year's worth of syrup.

Weather patterns and capturing every drop are critical.

 

Alright! So, we’ve reached ideal temperatures and sap is flowing - what now?

It may seem like there’s nothing left to do but head to the sugar house and start making syrup but, this is when familiarity with our lines and woods is more crucial than ever.

As mentioned, the success of a harvest is dependent on collecting as much sap flowing from our Eden Notch Maples as possible. This means constantly checking and repairing our tubing lines that use a vacuum system to transport sap from the tap to the sugar house.


The vacuum is only as strong as its closed system and unfortunately, tubing is constantly being damaged. From gauges located in the sugar house, we are able to decipher the area where a leak in the vacuum system is occurring. Once targeted, this is where the expertise and patience of our Estate crew steps in.


With watchful eyes and alert ears bent low to the tubes, our Estate crew listens carefully for a "hiss" sound, indicating a hole/leak in the system. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a tap falling out, sometimes the point of obstruction is the size of a pin prick and demands extra sleuthing to plug-up. The ability to identify and fix these leaks is imperative in order to keep our vacuum system working to the best of its ability and yield as much sap as possible.

Remember:

During harvest, the Eden Notch Estate is still full of snow, ice, and mud.

This makes for slow, exacting work.

Sometimes a spring storm will come up and take out an entire section.

Days are long and unending.

 

Meanwhile,

as sap from the tubing system in the woods enters the sugar house, it goes through the releaser/extractor to a reverse osmosis (RO) system.

Remember:

Syrup is a concentrate.

Reverse osmosis removes 2/3 (that's up to 80%!) of the water present in sap

which in turn greatly reduces boiling time and relative energy costs.

Once sap has gone through RO, it is time to boil!

 

As you may recall, back in January we acquired a new steam evaporator!

If you haven't been introduced, please acquaint yourself with our pride and joy and learn why we use a steam evaporator as opposed to wood fired (for example) in this blog.


Boiling the sap will remove all remaining water to turn it into liquid gold - maple syrup.

We know it is ready when it reaches the desired density within the narrow band of 66.9 and 68.9 Brix. To do this we use a refractometer and hydrometer, these devices also help measure exact sugar content. This precise work amplifies syrup shelf-life by ensuring zero possibility of crystallization within the bottle.

 

Folks sometimes ask why Vermont maple syrup is the best.

Vermont requires higher standards in maple syrup from producers than what is required by the government nationally. From meeting tight density regulations to its necessary unclouded appearance, Vermont maple syrup is unparalleled in quality.

Once these requirements are met, it is time to conduct rigorous tastings.

This last step is crucial in ensuring every bottle we produce delivers the exact desired result. The delicate nuances of our First Harvest versus our Last Harvest syrups are expertly identified and tested. No machines for this - just sommelier-like precision.

 

Finally, syrup is filtered into bulk drums where it will live until bottling,

followed by sale, and then ultimately, delicious consumption.

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