The Sugar Shack
From a distance I could smell the maple syrup in the air and see the clouds of steam in the sky. This was the second ‘weekend open house’ for the Platte Creek Maple Farm, owned by Chris Genson and Pete Lavalle.
Platte Creek Maple Farm is a member of the New York State Maple Producers Association
During the open house visitors were invited to observe the syrup production process and enjoy a scrumptious breakfast of pancakes with dark syrup. The process is fascinating and because of the limited harvest period (six to eight weeks), it requires long hours, dedication and hard physical work. Pete patiently explained the steps …
For a healthy tree with a 12-17″ diameter trunk, one spile (tap) is used. For an 18″ diameter trunk, no more than two spiles
Spiles (taps) are inserted into holes in the maple tree trunk. The sap is clear and runny like water and it flows into a tubing system or bucket.
Metal sap bucket attached to trunk, the lid keeps rain and insects out
External temperature variations enable the sap to be harvested. When the temperature is above freezing, pressure inside the tree forces the sap out of the spile. When the temperature drops below freezing, internal pressure drops, suction develops and the roots take up water which replenishes the sap. These fluctuating temperatures last about eight weeks during February and March.
About 1,200 trees are tapped on the Lavalle Family farm
When the trees form buds the harvesting is over because the sap develops an unpleasant ‘buddy’ taste. Red or Black Maple trees can be used, but the Sugar Maple has the highest sugar content, best flavor and longest season.
Gravity tubing collects between 10 and 20 gallons of sap per tree
A system of gravity tubing is in place. Gravity draws the sap down the tubes towards a stainless steel collection tank at the rear of the sugar shack.
You can see the blue vacuum pump atop the collection tank
The blue vacuum pump above the stainless steel collection tank increases the quantity and speed of syrup extraction. When there is about 1,000 gallons of sap in the tank, the evaporation process starts.
Firewood is harvested at the farm
Wood is used to heat the Evaporator which boils the maple tree sap.
This style of sign is classic Hudson Valley
Inside the Sugar Shack…
Behind these doors, a reverse-osmosis process forces the sap at high pressure through a membrane and removes some of the water. A pre-heater warms the sap before it goes into the evaporator.
It’s nice and warm inside the sugar shack!
The evaporator boils the sap, removes water and concentrates the solids (primarily sugar). Sap is about 2% sugar – syrup must contain 66% to 67% sugar on the Brix scale (a measure of the sugar content of an aqueous solution)
Pete Lavalle adding firewood to maintain temperature
The correct boiling temperature for the sap varies by day according to the barometric pressure. When I visited the optimum boiling temperature was 218.5 degrees F.
This bucket will be filled with syrup from the evaporator.
Maple syrup production equipment.
The sugar content of the sap determines how many gallons of syrup can be produced from it. For example, if the sap has 2% sugar it would take 43 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.
Maple syrup finisher
The bucket of syrup is poured into the finisher.
Maple syrup filter
The syrup is filtered.
Maple syrup grading samples
These color standards are used to grade the syrup – the darker the syrup, the more intense the flavor.
Pre-bottling holding tank
Syrup is stored in bulk and then bottled in glass or plastic containers.
Pure Maple Syrup is considered an organic product and is rich in amino acids and minerals
This bottle contains Grade A Dark Amber syrup. Dark Amber has the strongest flavor - a sweet caramel-maple flavor. It is great on pancakes or french toast and is the preferred syrup for making baked goods. Delicious!
Lovely clear water from the snow melt
The Plattekill Creek runs through the farm. It was named by the first European settlers who were from the Netherlands. ‘Plattekill’ translates as ‘flat creek bed’ in the Middle Dutch language.
When the harvesting season is over the taps and tubes are removed, cleaned and stored for the following year.
Platte Creek Maple Farm
808 Glasco Turnpike, Saugerties New York
Tel: 845 853 4240
- Would you like to try some Platte Creek Maple Farm syrup? Adams Fairacre Farms or other local stores carry a great selection.
- If you are in New York during February/March, check out the Maple Weekend events. There are about 150 producers who host open weekends