Making Maple

Making Maple

Many methods can be used to make maple syrup, but each way makes the same sweet product. Here are some stories from families, neighbors and a serious amateur maple producers about how they strive to preserve this golden treat.

Making Maple - Family Style

The Pratt family likes to keep it simple. A hot fire and large pans are all they need for their sugaring operation. That and their family to help collect all the sap.

Maple Maple - Neighborhood Maple

Boiling sap is a fun activity especially with friends. Michael Cohen needed trees to tap so he asked his neighbors. He boils right outside the house so neighbors and friends can stop by to join in the festivities.

Making Maple - Semi-Pro

Once you have a sugar shack and an evaporator you’re practically a professional. Larry Dennis has his own small sugaring operation for the 140 trees he taps each spring, learning new tricks as he goes.

Maple Grades

Shifting temperatures means a change in grade
Maple syrup worker displaying maple grading kit
The maple sugaring season usually lasts about 4-6 weeks. The weather and trees determine how long it lasts. Bacteria, (99% of the DNA in you, BTW) can’t survive when it’s cold, but in warmer temperatures it thrives in sugary sap. Cold weather produces light syrup and warm temperatures and the ensuing bacteria produces darker syrup, boiled (to death) during the processing. The sap isn’t as sweet at the end of the season. The trees, as they get ready to bloom, take more of the sugar to leaf.

Grading kits, based on color, help producers grade syrup. One empty bottle is filled with the syrup that needs to pass its grade. Three bottles filled with liquid, colored for each grade, are used as the scorecard.

Historical Images of Gus Low's Maple Operation

Historic photograph of Horseshoe Forestry Company building
Abbot Augustus Low, an entreprenaur and inventor from Brooklyn founded Horseshoe Forestry Company near Tupper Lake in 1896. Low's company supported all his buiness ventures which included spring water bottling, maple syrup, wild berry preserves, and wood products. In 1907, HFC produced 20,000 gallons of syrup, the most produced in the world at the time.
A.A. Low's sugarhouse was a large building stocked with plenty of firewood. If you look closely you can see the steam rising from the building.
Historic photograph of A.A. Low's sugarhouse
1901 photograph of sap collection buckets attached to maple trees
One of A.A. Low's several patents were these bucket lids for the sap collection buckets. The lids kept bugs and other animals out of the sap and prevented rain from getting in.
Buckets were emptied into pails, pails were emptied into drums, carried back to the sugarhouse on horsedrawn sleighs. Sugaring used to be a very time consuming and physically demanding job.
1901 Photograph of workers collecting sap from collection buckets into drums on horse-drawn sleighs
Workers on horse drawn sleigh for maple sap collection
Employees at Horseshoe Forestry company used horse-drawn sleighs to collect sap from their sugarbush.

Maple Sugaring in Tupper Lake

The Wild Center Maple Project is just the newest part in the history of maple sugaring near our site. In the early 1900’s, Tupper Lake was a major producer of maple syrup.

Abbot Augustus Low was the man behind the sap. An entrepreneur and inventor from Brooklyn who owned the Horseshoe Forestry Company, his business enterprises included spring water production, wild berry preserves, and maple syrup. His large maple sugaring operation was one of the first to have a tubing system with metal pipes and troughs that used gravity instead of pails to collect sap. His property around Lows Lake included a blacksmith shop, an energy generating plant, a stable, an engine house, storehouses and maple sugaring buildings.

At peak production in 1907, Low’s operation produced 20,000 gallons of syrup.

At the time of his death in 1912, he was second only to Thomas Edison for the number of patents held by a single person, for things like a motor, exhaust system, igniter, bottle design and a means of preserving maple sugar. He invented a square glass bottle to ship spring water to New York City. The square bottle allowed for easier packing in a box. The bottles could then be returned and reused.