It’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it?
Canadians and Vermonters can brag all they want, but here in Minnesota, there are people making high-quality maple syrup, right from Minnesota trees.
I recently had the privilege of spending a day with Debbie and Jim Morrison, whose Sapsucker Farms near Mora is a certified organic producer of maple syrup.
What started out as a weekend property for the former Twin Citians became a permanent home in 2000. Debbie works in advertising in St. Cloud, while Jim flies planes for Mesaba. But their real vocation resides on their home property, with acres of prairie grasses and flowers that keep hundreds of honeybees busy, and the recent addition of dozens of organic apple trees.
The annual spring ritual of syruping started when a visiting friend noticed all the sugar maples and suggested they consider tapping them. In 2002, they experimented with 35 trees; this year, they had 500 taps going.
If you think 500 tapped trees means 500 gallons of maple syrup, think again. The ratio of sap to syrup can be anywhere from 30 to 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. (For more details on the actual process, you can read an article Debbie wrote for Simple Good and Tasty.)
Here’s what sap looks like when it comes out of the tree:
Looks — and tastes — a lot like water, with maybe just the faintest trace of sweetness. To get this watery stuff to the beautiful syrup shown above takes a few hours, many filters, and a wood-burning stove kept fired up at a steady pace.
Making maple syrup is hard work, but on the other hand, when the weather’s nice, it’s a wonderful way to spend a day, hiking through the woods, then returning to the syrup house, where plumes of smoke release a sweet scent as the sap boils down into syrup.
The Morrisons take their syrup process seriously, and send the syrup through several levels of filtering to remove any impurities, far more than is required by the USDA.
The end result may have been reduced from 40 gallons to one, but it’s a welcome transformation.
One taste of this maple syrup, and you’ll never go back to the pseudo-syrups on the grocery store shelves again.
What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.