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Tapping maple trees to make pure maple syrup

FUNKS GROVE, IL (WEEK) – I love taking a walk in the woods on a spring day.

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

They are mined to make pure maple syrup.

Behind the trunk and the stems on all those blue lines – no it’s not an obstacle course – the maple sap flows through the veins of the trees being siphoned off by a suction system and dumped into a reservoir of retained to be boiled to make pure maple syrup – what an absolute delight.

My great-great-grandfather Isaac Funk moved to this neighborhood in 1824. Another branch of the family – my great-grandfather was Isaac’s youngest son and also a farmer. His sons Lawrence and Arthur started doing something the family still does – making maple sugar but in their case they decide to sell it to people 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 around 1889-1990.

The sap was always boiled using firewood as a fuel source, so over time – maple syrup technology changed, as did agriculture and maple syrup did many of these same things where we come to more high tech and ways to collect sap that is easier – not as physical as labor.

Black maple and sugar maple naturally occurred and they came together in a kind of combination – and so they’re both hard maple and they both have sweet sap to make Maple syrup.

We know that somewhere between mid-February and mid-March we will have our maple season when the temperatures drop into the 20 degree zone at night and rise into the 40 degree range during the day and that’s when when the sap flows.

So we tap a hole in a vein in this tree – one or two taps depending on the size of the tree and we’ll draw the collected sap. Our system is now almost fully pipelined. We don’t use buckets so much anymore, so we have vacuum pumps that pull the sap out of the pipeline, and then we collect it from the tanks, bring it in, and do the treatment.

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

Pure maple syrup is just tree sap – nothing added – we use filtering and to make it clear, but other than that it’s just the real McCoy.

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