Tom Shaw has been making maple syrup his entire life. Like his dad and grandfather before him, Tom can often be found by our evaporator in the sugar shack chatting to guests about the bush and how to make maple syrup. If you would like to know more about maple syrup, please read on. We’ve summarized Tom’s description of how syrup is made at Shaws and how deliciously nutritious it is!
Shaws maple syrup is made from the sap of more than 4,500 sugar maple trees located on our property. As the longest living trees in this part of the world, sugar maples can live up to 400 years. While each year is different, the sap usually starts to run sometime in mid-February or March. The ideal conditions for sap to run is when the temperature is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. The maple season is short and usually lasts between two and eight weeks, depending on the weather. Once the tree has enough sap to feed its developing buds, the sap stops flowing.
Taking care of our trees is critical to maintaining a useful flow of sap. We tend to our trees year round and, when it is necessary, we thin the bush so our trees can thrive. We only tap healthy trees and we avoid tapping a tree in the same spot year over year. If you visit our pancake house, take a look at the tables made by our friends at The Northern Joinery. The wood in the tables comes from our fallen trees so you can see the location of different taps over the life of the tree. It’s very cool.
Collecting maple sap is a fairly simple process: we drill a hole in the tree, insert a tap and capture the excess sap as it runs through the tree. We only tap trees of a certain age to be sure that it is excess sap and that the tree is not harmed in the process. Almost all of the sap we capture is collected through a network of tubing that runs throughout our sugar bush and brings the sap to our sugar shack. We still have a number of sap buckets on trees near the sugar shack so visitors can see the sap first-hand and imagine how we collected sap, bucket by bucket, for over 60 years.
Maple sap straight from the tree is about 98% water and 2% sugar so it tastes, and looks, like sweet water. To make the tasty, thick syrup we love to pour on pancakes, we remove most of the water and concentrate the sugar through a process of evaporation. While it sounds like a simple process, it typically takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup and the evaporation process needs constant monitoring to make sure the batch isn’t burnt or over or under concentrated.
When Tom’s great-great grandfather started making maple syrup in 1904, it took him two and a half hours of boiling over an open flame to make a batch of syrup. Keeping the wood-burning fire at a constant temperature would require his undivided attention.
Decades of experience have helped the Shaw family find innovative ways to adapt the way we make syrup. For example, we now use a process of reverse osmosis that removes a lot of the water from the sap before we boil it. One thing that hasn’t changed in over a century is our family’s commitment to making a consistent, high quality syrup in the most efficient way possible. Click HERE to read more about our 119 year history.
Maple syrup is a wonderful, unique and nutritious sweetener. Maple syrup has also been shown to have a number of health benefits such as aiding with digestion and improving the effect of antibiotics. Described as one of the world’s last wild harvested foods, maple syrup comes directly from nature and does not require a lot of refining like some other sweeteners.
Maple syrup is also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants have been proven to have a number of health benefits such as reducing inflammation, preventing cancer, and slowing the effects of aging.
You will find many maple goodies in our Maple Tree’t shop including: maple sugar, maple candy, and even maple butter. Come visit us and enjoy all that maple syrup has to offer. During Maple Season we are open every day from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. You can find our Pancake House menu here. If you want to be SURE we are boiling, we encourage you to please call ahead (705) 325-4347.
Kids of all ages LOVE maple taffy on the snow. If the conditions allow, we often make it at the pancake house for guests during maple season. We’ve been doing it for decades!
If you feel like making it at home, just follow these three simple steps: