Tapping maple trees to make pure maple syrup

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 6:12 PM CDT
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FUNKS GROVE, IL (WEEK) - I love a good walk in the woods on a spring day.

Yes, it is spring - it’s not green but the trees are still actively flowing.

They are being tapped to make pure maple syrup.

Behind the trunk and stems on all these blue lines - no it’s not an obstacle course - maple tree sap is flowing through the veins of the trees being siphoned out by a suctioning system and dumped in a holding tank to be boiled down to make pure maple syrup - what an absolute delight.

My great-great-grandfather Isaac Funk settled in this neighborhood in 1824. Another branch of the family - my great grandfather was the youngest son of Isaac and also a farmer. His sons Lawrence and Arthur started do something that the family is always done - make maple sugar but in their case they decide they’re going to sell it to people which the family had never done before - It was always for their own use.

So in 1891, Arthur was the first in the family to sell pure maple syrup to people. My wife Debbie and I took over about 1889-1990.

The sap was always boiled using firewood as a fuel source so as time went on -- the technology in maple syrup has changed just like agriculture and maple syrup has done many of those same things where we’re getting to more high tech and ways to collect the sap that are easier - not as physical labor-wise.

Naturally occurred black maple and sugar maple and they have combined to some sort of combination -- and so they’re both hard maple and they both have sweet sap to make maple syrup.

We know that somewhere in between mid-February and mid-March we’re going to have our maple season when temperatures fall into the area of 20s at night and up in the 40s during the day and that’s when the sap flows.

So we are tapping a hole in a vein of that tree - one or two taps depending on the size of the tree and we’re going to draw the sap collected. Our system now is pretty much all pipeline. We don’t use a bucket so much anymore and so we have vacuum pumps that pull the sap out of the pipeline and then we collect it from tanks, we bring it in and then we do the processing.

Our process is still what the Native Americans did - they heat the sap up and boil the water out and so it takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and so that’s a lot of boiling. We use reverse osmosis to replace some of that boiling but we still have to boil the syrup - we need the caramelization for the flavor in the syrup so we do still have to do some boiling.

Pure maple syrup is just the tree sap boil down - nothing added - we’re using filtering and to make it clear but other than that it’s just the real McCoy.

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