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A black and white photo of two men and two horses at Brantview Farms Maple Sugar Camp



Maple sugaring has been the way of life for the Brant family for eight generations and more than 180 years.   The sugar camp, located in Shanksville, PA, comes alive in mid-February as the trees are tapped, tubing placed and gathering begins.   The camp boasts a state of the art Reverse Osmosis system and is excited to receive an industry leading brand new Supreme RF Arch Leader evaporator system for the 2016 season.   Visitors are welcome to visit during the season to see the process first hand, purchase maple products and join in the fun.   The camp has been host to the PA Maple Producers and the annual Tree Tapping Ceremony to mark the beginning of the season for maple producers.   



History of the Pennsylvania Maple Industry

By: The Pennsylvania State Agriculture Association

Native Americans first discovered how to make maple syrup many years ago. They collected the sap in containers made from birch bark. They boiled it by filling a hollowed-out log with sap, then putting hot rocks into it. The Native Americans did not have a way to store the sticky liquid very well, so they boiled the syrup a little longer to make maple sugar. They used maple sugar to sweeten their food and added it to cold water for a sweet summer drink. When the first Europeans 
came to North America, the Native Americans taught them about making maple syrup. As time passed, the method for making the syrup improved, but the basic process remained the same. The annual tradition of making maple syrup 
has been a part of Pennsylvania’s history for well over 200 years.
The sugar maple tree is the natural resource used to make maple syrup, and maple producers need to take good care of these trees. They wait until sugar maple trees are 10-12 inches in diameter (20-40 years old) before they start tapping them. They also limit the number of taps they put in one tree according to the size of the tree so that it will not be damaged. Tapping maple trees properly does not affect tree health. However, a small amount of wood damage does occur in the tree. The sap collected is only a small fraction of the total amount of sap in the tree. The small hole drilled into the tree usually heals within one or two years.  If the maple trees are taken care of properly, the same tree can be tapped year after year.

Each year throughout Pennsylvania in early spring, maple producers, also called “sugarmakers,” head to their woods for the start of the maple syrup season.  Generally, the maple season lasts from mid-February to early April. Maple producers drill a small hole into the trunk of the tree.  This is called tapping. They insert a small spout or spile to catch the sap that begins to collect in the hole. The spout may connect to plastic pipes stretching through the woods, called tubing, or to a bucket to collect the dripping sap.

Sap from the sugar maple tree is about 98 percent water and two percent sugar, other nutrients and minerals. To make pure maple syrup, the sap needs to be boiled to evaporate a lot of the water away. Maple syrup is 33 percent water and 67 percent sugar.  The sap starts to “run” or flow out of the holes when the weather is just right. Sugarmakers like cold nights (with temperatures below freezing) and warm days (with temperatures above freezing) so the sap will flow. Once the sap starts collecting in the buckets or flowing through the tubing, it needs to be processed right away.Sugarmakers use evaporators to make maple syrup. An evaporator consists of two or more large, specially designed pans that are filled with 
sap. These pans sit over a fire of burning wood or some other fuel, which heats the sap and causes it to boil. As it boils, some of the water in the sap turns to steam, which rises out of the sugarhouse.  The sap becomes thicker and sweeter.
The sugarmaker has to watch the boiling sap very carefully because it could easily burn in the evaporator. As the sap thickens, it gets hotter. The sugarmaker knows the maple syrup is ready when its temperature reaches seven degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water. This process requires a lot of time and energy, because it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of pure maple syrup. The boiling sap is tested with precise instruments to determine if it is maple syrup. When it is thick enough to be maple syrup, it is filtered to take out “sugar sand” which accumulates as sap 
boils. Sugar sand is just minerals and nutrients that concentrate as the excess water is boiled away.  If it is not filtered out, the maple syrup will appear cloudy.

After the maple syrup is filtered, it is put in a container for sale, or made into other tasty maple treats. Many maple producers process their maple syrup into maple sugar, maple candy, maple cream and even maple jelly. Pure maple products have no additives, preservatives, or artificial colors. It’s all natural, and some people even call it a “taste of nature”Pure maple syrup is great on pancakes, waffles, or French toast. You can also enjoy it on vanilla ice cream, on steamed rice and vegetables, or other foods. It is a pure, all-natural product from Pennsylvania’s woods.