Utica, NY — A blizzard predicted by the National Weather Service to cripple the Northeast threatens what could be a record year for maple syrup production.
The clipper system moving through the Upper Midwest is expected to merge with a low-pressure system off the coast of New England late Friday resulting in heavy snow and winds gusts of up to 75 mph.
As the major winter storm of possible biblical proportions works its way towards the biggest maple syrup producing states in the country, maple syrup producers brace themselves for the worst.
Last week’s mild temperatures in some maple syrup regions caused a sap run never seen before, according to maple syrup producer Russ Hassmann of Durham Sugarhouse in Durham, Connecticut, leading some to believe 2013 would be a record year.
This weekend will be much different.
“It’s not only the snow and cold that we are concerned about, but 75 mph. winds have the potential to damage a lot of trees and tubing.” said Mary Ross of the Mohawk Valley Trading Company of Utica, NY where their maple syrup is made primarily from sugar maple sap.
“Ideal conditions for maple sap flow are when night time temperatures are in the low 20’s and daytime temperatures reach about 40 degrees.” Ross continued. “In some maple syrup regions, conditions were ideal, but this past week in Upstate New York, it has not gotten above the mid- twenties, day or night. Now we have high winds to worry about. ”
As of this morning, the potentially historic Nor’easter has caused delays of more than two hours at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as it continued full steam ahead on its way toward the Northeast.
Weather Channel meteorologist Tom Niziol said “You’re going to see some really significant snow totals; this is something we haven’t seen in a while, particularly in New England.”
About Maple Syrup
The production of maple syrup in North America predates European colonization. Early Native American societies in Canada and the northeastern United States were distilling maple syrup and sugar before those geographic boundaries existed. Maple sugar is made from the controlled crystallization of maple syrup and takes several forms.There is no written record of the first syrup production but several native legends persist. Many tribes celebrated the short maple sap collection season with specific rituals.
The Native Americans collected maple sap from v-shaped notches carved into maple trees. The sap was diverted into birch bark buckets using bark or reeds. It was concentrated by placing hot stones into the buckets or by freezing the sap and removing the ice, which is composed only of water.
Sugar maple sap is preferred for maple syrup production because it has an average sugar content of two percent. Sap from other maple species is usually lower in sugar content, and about twice as much is needed to produce the same amount of finished syrup.
When Europeans reached northeastern America they adapted native techniques to make their own maple syrup. The v-shaped notches were replaced with auger-drilled holes. This practice is less damaging to the trees. Bark buckets were replaced with seamless wooden buckets carved from lumber rounds. The method of sap concentration also changed from passive to active. Large amounts of sap were collected and brought to a single area where it was boiled over fires in round cauldrons until reduced to the desired consistency. ‘Sugar shacks’ were built expressly for the purpose of sap boiling. Draft animals were often used to haul fire wood and large containers of sap for sugaring. Maple syrup was an important food additive in early America because imported cane sugar was not yet available.
In the mid-1800’s syrup production changed again. Round cauldrons were replaced by flat pans in order to increase surface area and therefore allow for faster evaporation. Over the next 60 year several variations on this design were patented. Draft animals were replaced by tractors and heating methods expanded to include propane, oil and natural gas as well as wood.
The 1970’s represent another period of major changes in maple syrup production. Plastic tubing running directly from trees to the sugaring location eliminated the need for energy and time intensive sap collection. Reverse osmosis and pre-heating made syrup production more efficient. Recent advances have been made in sugarbush (maple trees used primarily for syrup production) management, filtration and storage.
There are two well known systems of maple syrup grading in use today. One system is used in Canada (where 80% of the world’s maple syrup is produced) and another system is used in the United States of America. Both systems are based on color and translucence with relate to the flavor of the syrup. Different grades are produced by the same trees over the length of the season.
Since maple syrup recipes usually do not specify any particular grade to use, take into consideration that darker colored syrups will produce dishes that a have a pronounced maple flavor.
The Mohawk Valley Trading Company hours of operations are 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST, seven days a week. Reach them at (315)-519-2640 to learn more.
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