SMALL BATCH MAPLE SYRUP

One of the world’s only commercially produced wild foods, maple syrup is as delicious as it is versatile in the kitchen. A food rich in antioxidant and inflammatory properties, maple syrup has a place at breakfast, lunch, dinner and / or dessert.

Return to Earth’s maple syrup is produced from sap collected from our own sugar-bush and processed in small batches using traditional methods and techniques.

light and dark styles of small-batch syrup

We offer two types of syrup in three sizes: 250 ml | 500 ml | 1 L

LIGHT MAPLE SYRUP is produced during the early days of the maple-production season and offers a delicate, caramel taste with gentle maple undertones. It is particularly good mixed into yogurt or drizzled over ice cream, cheesecake or other desserts.

DARK MAPLE SYRUP is produced in the latter half of the maple run and offers a distinctly maple flavour that is robust and full-bodied. It works beautifully as a marinade (i.e., for pork) and holds its own when paired with a squash and roasted.

FUN FACT

Maple sap in its raw form is 98% water and 2% sugar. To create maple syrup you boil the sap until enough water has evaporated that the 2% sugar concentration reaches approximately 66%.

So much water needs to evaporate that it takes approximately 40 liters of sap to make 1 liter of syrup!

MAKING MAPLE SYRUP

Return to Earth’s sugar-bush is located within a hardwood forest which covers the back 5-acres of our property. This area is populated by a range of tree species including elm, shag-bark hickory, basswood, musclewood, black cherry, and red oak, as well as approximately 200 sugar maple and red maple trees: both of which are considered “sweet” trees due to the comparatively high sugar content in their sap.

SYRUP SEASON

Maple syrup can only be produced during about one month in the spring of each year – in our region this is generally from early March to early April. The spring sap run is caused by a pendulum of pressure within the maple trees caused by varying temperatures. As daytime temperatures rise above freezing, positive pressure building within the trees pushes sap out of the tree – and out any taps that have been placed. At night, as temperatures drop again, negative pressure pulls water back into the tree through its roots thus replenishing the sap supply.

Sap will continue to flow past the early / mid April point which usually marks the end of the sugaring season because it’s at this point that the trees begin to bud and as soon as the trees’ buds begin to open the sap turns bitter and unpalatable.

preparing to tap a tree

SAP COLLECTION

sap dripping from tapped tree

Trees are tapped as the weather begins to warm and just before the sap begins to flow. This is done by drilling a small hole into the tree trunk and placing a tap, or spiel, into the hole. At Return to Earth, we use tree saver taps which have a smaller-than-usual diameter. This means a slower rate of flow than standard taps, but it also means less damage is done to the trees when placing the spiels. For us, the trade-off is well worthwhile!

Once the sap is flowing, we collect it in either individual metal buckets or, for a cluster of trees in close proximity, through gravity-fed lines into centralized containers. From here Ben collects the sap and transports it to our sugar-shack where its run through a small reverse-osmosis system which A) removes approximately 50% of the water content thus reducing volume by about half, and B) provides a first level of filtration. Once enough sap has been collected to warrant a cook, the fire is lit (literally)!

THE BOIL

boiling sap to make small-batch syrup

We use a basic, homemade evaporator consisting of deep pans suspended over an open top, wood-fuelled, brick “oven”. Raw sap is poured into the first pan and allowed to cook down. As water evaporates and the sap slowly reduces it’ll be moved to the second pan to reduce further, and then to the third to reduce even further. By the time the sap is ready to be poured off from the third pan it will have been cooking for more about 8 hours and will have reduced by well over 2/3rds of its volume.

The final stage of the process is to move the almost-syrup indoors where it is finished on the stove as this allows for far greater control and moderation of heat levels than the open fire which runs the evaporator.

A hydrometer is used to measure the density of the syrup which allows us to bring the syrup as near to a 66% sugar content as we can before taking the boiling liquid, running it through a fine felt filter, and bottling it in sterile glass jars.

During the main sap run, we’ll run a cook approximately every 2-3 days!