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We are well

Dave Klish

We closed the sugarhouse to visitors at the beginning of the season, but we continue to make maple syrup. We are still shipping and will as long as we remain healthy and the post office continues to pick up out going shipments from my dock.

I hope all of my customers get thru this trying time. We are self quarantined as a preventive measure and have been since before the first case of Covid 19 was diagnosed in the U.S. May all of you maintain the necessary “social distancing” needed to remain healthy.

God Bless and we will get thru this.


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The sugarhouse has been closed to visitors this year

Dave Klish

As a precaution we have closed our sugar house to the public. I have also had my partner stay home, all as a precaution to minimize the chances that Covid 19 could ever shut production down this season.

As a result, I have been doing all of the processing by myself, something I had not done since 2005. As we tapped the trees I did have the help of my brother-in-law , my oldest son and his girlfriend and my oldest at home grandson. Then as the Covid 19 was getting more worse around the world I decided to make the change to a solo operation and I made sure I didn’t go any place except my sugarhouse and home. So far this is working well.

The 2020 maple season is winding down, sap flow has slowed and the sap sugar % has dropped. It read 1.0% this morning, normally I get an average of 1.9-2.1% for a season average. This year my highest was 1.8% and most of it was between 1.2% and 1.5%. Several factors contribute to the sap sugar %. First is the amount of sun and moisture we had last year. Then comes the amount of snow we got over the late fall thru spring. Another factor is the number of freeze thaw cycles we got from mid winter thru the end of the season. For a freeze to be much good the temperature needs to go down to 28 F or lower, and for a thaw to help much we need it to climb to at least 38F for long enough to thaw the trees. Little swings let’s say down to 30F then up to 35-36 for a few hours helps some but very little.

We did get enough sun, and total rainfall but the heat got high enough that the trees were stressed somewhat. Then this past winter we were about down half of our normal snowfall. Then to follow that up we had far fewer freeze that cycles. The warm spells were warmer, with no overnight freezes, then when we got a freeze it lasted for a few days with no thaw. Those all contributed to lower sugar.

For the last 2 years my average has been 1/2 gal of syrup per tap produced. This year might not even be 1/4 gal per tap. Syrup packed at proper temperature in Stainless Steel (ss) barrels is good for at least 20 years. In fact in Quebec it is their goal to have a 20 yr supply to carry them thru any poor years. Fortunately I still have 5 ss barrels from the 2019 season.

In the end, we did make syrup and likely enough to last until next season, buy not much extra. Those 5 in last year’s inventory is what will carry me thru. The beauty of it is that the flavor was especially good last year. I don’t yet have a total of this year’s production, that will not be known until the last boil is finished and every gallon is counted.

New York State Maple Producers Association has cancelled this year’s Maple Weekend which I had not signed onto for this year, but this is the first year we have not invited guests in to learn how pure maple syrup is made and to get a free taste.

I however still sell my syrup at The Eclectic Chic at 21 Seneca Ave, Oneida (Oneida Castle, Rt 5) as well as online at this site’s store. I ship Monday thru Saturday shipping all orders that were into the website by 6PM the night before.

Thank you for your continued support, I hope to be able to continue this for a few more years, but likely fewer than 10 more unless my grandson (now age 11) who helped this year decides to get really involved. I have 2 other grandsons, one who was my right hand man from age 7-20, he is now in the navy, another grandson helped a few years but was not into it as much as the other, and he helps when I ask, but he is busy working for a bank.

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The evaporator

Dave Klish

My evaporator is wood fired and it measures 3′ wide and 8′ long. The arch (the firebox portion and support of the pans) is older, from a 2001 evaporator I bought used in 2007. It had been used just 1 year then the original owner got injured and could no longer make maple syrup. I used that evaporator in 2008 -2011. In 2009 I added a blower and plumbing to the firebox for high pressure air over the fire (AOF). This increased the efficiency of the burn in the arch. Originally we had to add wood (a full arm load) every 7 minutes while after adding the AOF we had a faster boil while adding wood (again a full arm load) but every 9 minutes. Along with that change the stack temperature dropped. Before AOF we frequently had stack temperatures in the 1500 to 1650 F range, with the AOF and a faster boil our stack temperature seldom reached 1100 F and most often is between 800-900 F. In other words we were getting more heat into the boil rather than sending it up the stack because far more of the wood gases were being burned under the pan. In fact, before AOF we had a ball of fire out the top of the stack, plainly seen after dark, after AOF there was no ball of fire. The ball of fire had not been from fire traveling the 8′ length of the evaporator plus another foot for the base stack, then up the 17′ to the top, what was happening is the fire consumed the oxygen and then sent the unburnt wood gases up to where they got more oxygen at the top of the stack and it instantly burst into flame again.

After having to sell sap to another producer during a super sap flow period in the 2011 season, my wife and I decided to buy a reverse osmosis (RO) machine. The RO took the sap from a typical range of about 2% sugar content up to 8% sugar by removing water in the sap. I used that for the 2012 season. In that season we decided the sizes of the evaporator pans was not the best for use with the RO. The flues pan (had a bottom with flues that went down 7″, across 1/2″, up 7″ and across 1.25″, that repeated all across the 3′ width of the pan and that pan was 6′ long. Flues increase the bottom surface area under the sap, transferring far more heat to the boiling concentrated sap. Then the concentrate that had been boiled down in the flues pan flowed to the syrup pan.

The syrup pan was also 3′ wide but only 2′ long. The bottom of a syrup pan is flat to slow down the flow enough that it has time to develop a great flavor, all of the flavor is developed in the syrup pan as the boiling sap caramelizes on the bottom of the pan. The syrup made in 2012 was good, but slightly less tasty than previous years. At first we thought the RO made it have a less intense maple flavor, but in the first month after the 2012 season ended research told us that was only part of it. The length of the syrup pan was the cause. Feeding 8% concentrate into the flues pan instead of 2% sap, meant in the syrup pan the finished product didn’t have enough boil time to develop the taste desired. While sales remained strong, we were not satisfied. I then contacted an evaporator manufacturer in Quebec and had them make custom built evaporator pans. Normal flues pans in my size range had either 7″ or 7.5″ deep flues, I had them make a flues pan with 10″ deep flues and at the same time I had it made 5′ long rather than 6′ long. Then on my same arch I had room for a 3×3 syrup pan. The new flues design I had custom built sent concentrate from the 5′ flues pan to the syrup pan at slightly greater density but now with a 3×3 syrup pan rather than a 3×2 syrup pan it had time to develop that great maple flavor, while still being fired by the same arch.

We decided we really like it when a plan is successful. Now all these years later, the pans and arch remain the same. The only change has been the use of the RO, while we still concentrate 2% sap to 8% concentrate in one pass, far more often we run it for a second pass to get 12% concentrate. The 3×3 syrup pan has no problem developing the full maple flavor at that density feeding the flues pan and we burn less wood per gallon of great tasting finished syrup.

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Ready for the 2020 maple season

Dave Klish

We have finished tapping all previously tapped trees around the sugar house and await the warm temperatures needed for the sap to flow. Right now we are well below freezing and will not see any warming until midday Monday (4 days out). When it does warm we also will be adding new lines to tap several previously untapped maples. I think we will be able to get almost 100 new taps from those trees (most trees unless they are up over 20″ diameter only get 1 tap.) We will have the vacuum pump running and be adding more taps in the mornings, then we will process in the afternoon into the evenings if needed, depending on the quantity of sap we get in the tanks. All sap is pulled by vacuum directly to tanks just outside the sugar house. At this time we have not boiled any yet. I’m quite sure the sap will flow enough next week as long as the forecast does not change. For our first boil we need a minimum of 300 gal of sap.

When sap flows well we can get well over 300 gal in a day, but if the weather isn’t warm enough we get too little to boil and if we don’t get enough after 2 days we dump the sap and clean the tanks, sap must be processed, it does poorly if held too long, 36 hrs is about it with temperatures up to 40 F, if closer to 50 F 24 hrs is all we can hold it. This is generally only an issue for having that first boil, after that we can process as little as about 150 gal, because the evaporator is still holding semi processed sap that has already boiled hard.

The evaporator runs in a continuous flow, from the inlet float to the outlet as finished syrup. Sap (or more accurately concentrate from the reverse osmosis (RO) flows into the float box on the flues pan, from there it is channeled to the front corner of the flues pan thru a SS pipe and flows out into the flues of the evaporator. On my 3′ x 8′ evaporator the flues pan is 3×5′ with each flue being 10″ deep, the flues make far more surface area exposed to the intense heat under the pans making it boil harder. The flues pan has several flues in the 3′ width, each running lengthwise. In that pan there are 2 main sections. From where the concentrate first enters the flues it boils and gradually flows to the back of that half of the flues pan. Then it crosses to the other half of the flues pan boiling hard until it reaches the front corner. The super concentrated sap then exits the flues pan (over 75% of the evaporation takes place in the flues pan) and flows to one of 2 float boxes on the syrup pan. That pan is reversible flow so I can change the direction of flow by closing one valve and opening another. Anytime I change direction of flow I also need to move a float from the old inlet to the new inlet side and move the automatic draw off valve to the new outlet.

In the syrup pan, there are 4 channels running from side to side. As the super concentrate flows into either section 1 or 4, it boils as it slowly flows to the end of that channel, where it crosses to the next channel. By the time it has reached the outlet box with the auto draw valve it then flows into a draw off tank. The auto draw is controlled by temperature and the necessary temperature is checked and adjusted as needed. We use an electric boil temperature meter which tells us what to set the auto draw at based on the exact barometer reading at that time at our location, as the air pressure changes the boil temperature changes. We keep the auto draw set at 7.3 degrees F above whatever the boiling point of water is at that time. You might think water boils at 212 F but that is only at sea level at 29.92 ” of mercury barometric reading. Some days it can remain unchanged for several hours, on others it can change every half hour enough that the draw off temperature needs to be adjusted.

Once it is at the correct density for maple syrup, it flows into a draw off tank, once we have been at full boil the first time of the season, we usually draw off 5-7 gal of syrup every hour. Part of that range is because sometimes we run the RO enough that the evaporator is being fed with concentrate at 8% sugar, while at other times we concentrate it to 12% sugar. My RO only removes 75% of the water in the sap as it flows thru the RO once, thus if the sap starts at 2% sugar we finish the RO at 8% in one pass. If we start at 3% we finish at 12%. We can also remove more if we have the time to do it on 8% concentrate, run thru a second time and get 12%. My RO does not go over about 3-14% concentrate, far more costly RO’s can go much higher. In fact Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center concentrates to 34-35% in one pass. A few other huge operations also have RO’s that can go to 35%, but most buying an RO in a higher price range than mine can go to somewhere between 15% and some others as high as 22-24%, the 35% RO’s are a new generation of RO, having developed in the last 2-4 years. An RO is basically just a filter, that allows water molecules to flow thru the membrane(s) while not allowing sugar molecules pass. The sap is pushed thru by a high pressure pump, my RO runs at up to 280 PSI, better ones run at 4-600 PSI and I don’t even know how high a pressure the super RO’s run at, but it must be much higher than 600 psi I would think.

Back to my flow, after the syrup is in the draw off tank (it holds up to 28 gal of syrup) it is then pumped to a 2′ x 6′ finisher. Once in there it is brought back up to a temperature of 205-210 F, verified for density by using a hydrometer, corrected if needed. If slightly too dense, we just draw some more almost syrup and blending it into the finisher, if too thin it is heated more to evaporate more water off. Now that we use the auto draw valve we generally only need slight adjustments in the finisher. From the finisher once at the perfect density of 66.9% sugar (all from sugar in the sap and only increased by removing excess water,first in the RO and then in the evaporator. Maple syrup can not be made by just removing enough water to get to 66.9% sugar in the RO. The maple flavor is developed in the evaporator. In fact, my evaporator 3×8 has a 3×5 flues pan and a 3×3 syrup pan. Evaporators made for those RO’s getting up to 30+% concentrations re different or their syrup would have very little flavor. The Proctor Center I told you about has a 7×20′ evaporator, their flues pan is only 4 or 6′ long, the rest is all syrup pan (a syrup pan has a flat bottom) so the super concentrate has enough time to develop the full maple flavor.

Back to my flow, again. From the finisher the syrup is pumped thru a filter press where the niter is removed. Niter is mainly excess minerals that precipitated out of the sap as it was concentrated. In concentrating the minerals can not all stay in solution and they precipitate out. If maple syrup was not filtered, it would be very cloudy. From the filter press the syrup is either sent to my bottler (if I need to pack more syrup for retail sales) or it is pumped into a stainless steel barrel. I have barrels ranging from 16 gal up to 26.5 gal. I used to have some 30 gal and 40 gal barrels, but I decided I like the 26.5 far better as my largest SS barrels because I don’t like to pack more than that at any one time in any one grade (color) at one time. I far prefer storing my reserve maple syrup in 26.5 gal or the smaller 16 gal barrels because of the bottling as I pack more retail containers.

Any syrup that was sent to the bottler is then heated if needed up to 185-187 F and bottled. Some in glass but most in plastic jugs because syrup sells for a lot more in glass because the cost of the glass is far higher than the plastic jugs. I bottle as needed through out the year, often every 3-6 weeks as needed.

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bottled more syrup

Dave Klish

These last 2 days I packed more Amber and more Dark maple syrup to keep inventories up for sales demand. December sales were my best ever, and so far this year sales, while slower have been good. I have a good stock in Amber, Dark and both sizes of bourbon barrel aged maple syrup.

I have another batch of bourbon barrel aged maple syrup almost ready to pack too. Since I introduced that product back in 2017 it has truly been a winner. In the beginning I had reservations about taking perfectly good maple syrup and putting it into recently emptied bourbon barrels to age. When I first started bottling the finished product I got lots of single bottle sales. Then shortly after I started getting quite a lot of multiple bottle sales (at that time I only offered the 200ml (6.76 fl oz) size).

Then about a year later, I decided to also offer a larger size, a 375 ml (12.7 fl oz). Most customers usually bought 1 of the smaller size for the first time they tried the product but repeat sales ended up being about half and half for size. I later added the possibility of (at discount price per bottle) for customers to buy whole cases of the bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. While only a few have bought whole cases, I have sold some that way. The 6.76 Fl Oz size comes 24 to a case and the 12.7 Fl Oz size comes 12 to a case. After the first year offering bourbon barrel aged maple syrup, my sales have been over 50% in that product (in dollar sales) in 2018 and 2019 and it looks to be over 50% in 2020.

I have had a few customers tell me they have had bourbon barrel aged maple syrup from other producers, but they like the perfect balance of flavor between the maple taste and the bourbon taste of mine. I contribute that to the fact that I don’t empty a barrel as it’s aging by the calendar, but more by taste. As it’s time gets near we open the oak barrel and draw a tiny sample to taste, if the taste is not perfect, we hammer the bung back in and test it again in 1-2 weeks. We only pack it when the taste is perfectly balanced. I feel this attention to detail gives us the best product possible.

Little or no alcohol in our bourbon barrel aged maple syrup

We end up with little or no alcohol in the bottled product. While the oak bourbon barrel had alcohol in it, and some of the maple sugars fermented while aging our process eliminates most if not all of the alcohol. When we empty a bourbon barrel , the aged maple syrup is pumped into a large piece of equipment called a finisher (2′ x 6′). We then heat it to about 200F, shut it off and let it set, even though the pan is covered evaporating alcohol escapes. Then 16-24 hrs later we again heat the aged maple syrup to 205-210 and at that point we send it thru our filter press, which removes all traces of the char that came from the inner surface of the barrel (the char is what gave the bourbon it’s color). The syrup is pumped thru the filter and sent to the bottler. The bottler is a water jacketed device that holds up to 18 gal of syrup, and is surrounded by water. The thermostat maintains a temperature of 186+/-1 degree F. There we let it set overnight, and if any alcohol remains it evaporates off. Then we are ready to bottle the finished product, but our first step is to taste a small sample of the syrup to confirm it meets our standards. So far this has worked perfectly.

For those interested in the alcohol, sorry we will not change our process that has proven to be perfect. If you want a little kick, add your own bourbon .

In other matters, the new season will be upon us soon, might start in a week or 2, it all depends on the weather. We had lots of warm weather the last 6 weeks, but not enough freeze thaw cycles, those are needed to improve the sap sugar content. This weekend we likely will see the coldest temperatures of the winter. We have so far been doing repairs on the tubing that collects to sap. I think a week or 2 will give us the sap sugar we want. At that time, we will tap and start collecting the maple sap and prepare it for boiling into our tasty maple syrup. We are hoping for another great year.