Once the sap comes into the Sugarhouse, it’s all about the pipes, gauges and heat.
From the tank room, the sap is filtered through a reverse osmosis machine. The RO, as it is known, is the same technology used to supply communities with clean drinking water. For us, it removes up to 90% of the water from the sap before we boil it. This is the revolutionary bit of kit that has transformed modern sugarmaking over the last several decades. Without it, we would need to use eight times as much fuel.
After being concentrated, the sap is then sent back to the tank room and from there to the evaporator where it is boiled down to syrup. The boiling process is intense and the hours long. If the weather is perfect and the sap is flowing, a run can last for up to 20 hours and require constant fiddling with the equipment. When we have roughly six weeks to make a year’s worth of product, there is no stopping and starting mid-run to catch some sleep. It’s an art in endurance and on-the-job problem-solving.
At Runamok, we use steam to boil the sap because it gives us precision control over the process and we find it results in the best flavor. The 400 horse power steam boiler produces roughly 13,000,000 BTU/hour creating a roiling but controlled boil in the steam pan. Billows of steam exit through the stack creating a heavenly smell of maple syrup throughout the farm.
The last step of the process is to send the finished syrup through a filter press, creating a clear, amber liquid. The color of maple syrup is lightest at the beginning of the year and continues to darken over the course of the season. The taste also changes as the winter recedes and the temperatures warm. We taste the syrup each run to determine the peak of flavor for our Sugarmaker’s Cut. We never know when that peak will come but it is a pleasure tasting maple syrup almost daily, looking for it.
We process 2,000,000 gallons of sap, give or take, in a season.