Household Syrup Management 101

Syrup is sticky.  It can be hard to open the jars easily if you store them in the fridge.

 

We keep it on the counter in a smaller pourable container.  Ours is a little glass jar with a simple glass plug (the glass ring broke off nearly as soon as it entered our kitchen).

If you use the syrup every few days and disturb the surface by pouring some out with some regularity it doesn’t seem to mold even sitting on the counter un refrigerated.

 

Basically we keep the quart in the fridge and dispense as necessary into our table syrup container.

 

 

What is an RO Machine?

 

Picture of the machine coming soon!

A reverse osmosis (RO) machine is a filter.  It was originally created to purify water.  Maple sugarmakers got a hold of them, and used them to discard the pure water and keep the contaminated water (full of sugar, minerals, etc.) in order to further process it into maple syrup!

A sugar molecule (C6 H12 O6) is much larger than a water (H2O) molecule.  Maple sap out of the tree usually ranges between 1 and 3 percent sugar. A reverse osmosis machine can increase the sugar content to over 20 percent.  In order to get to Pure Vermont Maple Syrup (66.9% sugar) the remaining excess water is removed the traditional way – through boiling the sap until enough water has evaporated for the syrup to be the correct density.

Though there have been some poorly run tests to see if ROs have a detrimental impact on flavor and none of them have been conclusive (shocker) – it is believed by many that the combination of high concentration RO use and using fuel other than wood leads to maple syrup with less flavor.

Think about it – Instead of cooking something for 100 minutes as the recipe calls for, you cook it for only 12.5 minutes…. How would it taste?  That’s what is happening with 2.5% sap when it hits the evaporator vs. 20% “sap” when it hits the evaporator.  If you are like my friend Orin – the Thirty Second Guy (check out his other videos!), maybe 30 seconds is okay for cooking some things, but for me I like flavor in my syrup.

At Green Wind Farm, we do have an RO and we run it at 7%.  This way we don’t need to cut, stack, split, stack, dry, move into woodshed and burn 70 cords of wood a year to make our syrup, we only use about 25 cords or so!  Seriously though, let us know if you find syrup that can compare to ours on a regular basis.  We always want to figure out how we can do things better.

New in our operation this year is an oil dripper, so we can minimize the amount of defoamer we use to keep the boiling sap in the back pans from flooding over.  We have used local organic sunflower oil in the past, but will likely use an organic safflower this year as we are suspicious the sunflower was imparting a slight flavor to the syrup.

 

 

 

2015! New Syrup Grades

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The syrup is the same – the words are different – as our 8 month old standing next to me says “blah, blah, blah, blah.”  Maybe you should just stop reading now and get off the internet!

Vermont syrup has always been graded based on both color and flavor. In the
past, slight regional differences in terminology existed in the maple syrup grading system. Over the next few years, all maple syrup producers – from Canada to West Virginia
and Maine to Minnesota- will phase in the new standardized grade descriptors
found above.

It’s a marketing thing.  There is concern that consumers are confused about what syrup they are going to get with the old descriptors and also that  “Grade B” means bad.   I’m not sure if these assumptions are true.  Some would say there is a growing worry that massive increases in maple production over the last decade (basically doubled in the U.S. – with little signs of slowing in the near term) is making the big packers nervous.  As such there is a pressing concern to market all this syrup, hence, a “better” grading system.

Vermont is among the first to require these new grades – beginning in 2015.  Unfortunately in our minds, an entire existing grade (Grade A Dark Amber) is split to fit into either Amber Color with Rich Taste or Dark Color with Robust Taste.  Our opinion, is that there is quite a spectrum of flavors from the lightest Amber to the darkest Dark.  To bad people can’t get something in the middle anymore – you can always buy one of each grade and dump them together I suppose!

Ha Ha – our opinion.  They had a big listening tour for sugarmakers to weigh in and in the end the deciders spit out the exact same phrases they had initially proposed years earlier as this grade consolidation concept was first in it’s concept phase.

Pumpkin Village Foods / Green Wind Farm will continue to provide you with the same excellent syrup as before – slightly different names, but, one on the light side of Amber (great for table syrup use) and one on the dark side side of Dark (great for cooking). Make sure your store carries the one you want! In the words of an old friend – “If you’re gonna bring one, bring two.”

What’s the difference between the grades?  Well – “come on in the water’s fine”  – If you like the flavor you’re getting – good for you!  Find a producer you like and stick with them. The difference in grades simply a matter of preference… find the grade/flavor you like for different usages.  Typically though the lightest grade, does not have a strong enough flavor for most people looking for maple, and the darkest flavor should not be sold except for commercial purposes.  Why it is now being called “Grade A” is beyond me.  Makes me think of an old Tommy Boy guarantee.  

Typically lighter syrup is made earlier in the season when the weather is cooler. As the weather warms up, the sap quality declines, and the darker syrup is made. The lighter the syrup the more delicate the flavor.

There is no difference in mineral content between the gradesall you master cleansers out there – use either grade!  The variation in flavor is more batch to batch, local soil differences, or the way the syrup is actually produced.

High RO syrup is often lighter in color (and lighter in flavor).  Oh what??  You like flavor?   Make sure you find some syrup that’s been produced with care.  Luckily that’s what we’ve got for you… only 7% sugar coming out of the RO here at Green Wind Farm.  What’s an RO?  See this post.

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Syrup Traceability 2013

Here’s my second attempt at a traceability page… first one including a chart, thanks to my neighbors over at Burlington Bytes!

Prior to this 2013 season, I had bought a bit of syrup to keep all my accounts stocked.  Remember 2012 was a poor production season for all producers.  This year, we made almost no Grade B, though we made a lot of very nice Grade A syrup.    See more in the 2013 season post.

If you want to know a bit more about your syrup’s path to your plate… see below.

Thanks!  Seth

code grade label name producer/barrel info. date canned
123 B Green Wind Farm GWF 34-11 and 24-12  1/25/13
193 A medium Pumpkin Village Matt Gedeon barrel 6-12 1/29/13
283 A medium Pumpkin Village Dan Branon barrel 13-13 2/18/13
383 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/8/13
323 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/12/13
373 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/27/13
393 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/29/13
413 A med – B Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  4/1/13
453 A dark Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  4/5/13
563 A medium Green Wind Farm GWF 9-13 5/6/13
563 B Pumpkin Village Gabe Gervais 5-13 5/6/13
623 A medium Pumpkin Village Gedeon 39-13 and GWF 12-13 6/2/13
623 B Pumpkin Village Gervais 49-13 6/2/13
713 Am Green Wind GWF 12-13 and GWF 10-13 7/1/13
713 B Pumpkin Village Gervais 83-13 7/1/13

 

I will continue to make information about your specific jar of syrup available to you carrying forward!

Pumpkin Village Syrup!? (where’s my green wind??)

Yes…It’s both sad and exciting. We’ve run out of Grade A Medium Amber from our 2012 season!

It was a quite poor season for everyone in 2012. We made about 1/2 the crop as 2011. There was a week of almost 80 degree weather in Mid-March that caused the trees to start budding. Once this happens the quality of sap, and thus syrup, declines significantly. As a neighbor said, they shouldn’t call it maple syrup, but syrup from maple trees at that point.

We are not interested in making low quality syrup. Some people continued to collect and process sap, in order to sell it on the bulk market for commercial use at about half the rate paid for quality maple syrup. Beware: I tasted some syrup labeled Grade A Dark Amber in a friends’ fridge that hardly tasted like maple syrup… some of this off flavored stuff is bound to make it into retail packaging.

I’ve been luck enough to be able to select some of the best syrup from a few neighbors. Thanks to the kindness of these producers, letting me pick through their barrels, I can still bring you excellent single-source maple syrup straight from Franklin County, VT to “the city”. Please let me know what you think.

Instead of simply labeling this stuff as Green Wind Farm, the name of the producers will be on the back of the jar. I hope you appreciate this full disclosure. Look for even more full disclosure in the future when you will be able to track the day the syrup was made, the day it was canned, and perhaps even some back story about what was happening at Green Wind Farm the day of production!

VT Makes 41% of 2011 US syrup production

In 2011 VT made 1.1 million gallons of pure Vermont maple syrup. This is the most made in the state since 1944. It’s incredible that we made that much syrup way back then! Imagine the amount of labor and fuel involved in 1944. I doubt even the most boastful sugarmakers (of which there are few) would deny the labor is as hard as it was. The equipment is certainly much more efficient. Expect more in the future on how sugaring technology has dramatically changed production over the last few decades.

Wall Street Journal chooses our syrup!

That’s right!  This spring we were contacted by Kristen at the one and only Wall Street Journal.  She first came across our pure Vermont maple syrup at Commodities Natural Market at 1st Ave and 11th in the East Village. He stocks only two brands of pure maple syrup with Green Wind being the domestic variety. The result of our discussions was an insightful blurb on the production of maple and some applications chefs in the Northeast have found for this local sweetener.

An article produced by the WSJ towards the tail end of the sugaring season was equally insightful indicating they find out what they are talking about before reporting on it!

Check out the article (and if you dare, visit a store near you to get “slinged with clean maple sweetness” all for yourself!)

Kristen says, “out of the 8 or 9 brands I tasted [Green Wind Farm and Tree Brand] ended up being my two favorites!”

2011 Season wrap-up

That’s right we used a lot of wood. The pile above is about 10 feet high. We burned almost 70 cords this year! Thanks to those of you who help move a load or two.

Don’t ask about the carbon foot print this year. Sorry Gaia. We’ll do better. Promise? We’d better. do better.

The reason we burned so much wood (and made so much syrup!) was we added vacuum to a pipeline system that was previously on gravity. The increase in sap was astounding. Vacuum is the conventional method for most production of maple syrup nowadays. Look for a post soon describing how vacuum works in a sugarbush.

better do better.

A reverse osmosis (RO) machine will help. Some say the use of ROs lessens the flavor of the syrup. Continue reading “2011 Season wrap-up”

Sugaring 2011

Sugaring season is always a rush. We wait, ready to react and unable to plan for much, reading between the lines of each updated weather report. What does “snow showers on the western flanks of Mt. Mansfield with sun through the St. Lawrence Valley” means for us in the foothills of northern Champlain Valley bumping into the St. Lawrence Valley?

weather, flat tires, a down cow… Continue reading “Sugaring 2011”

Vendor letter 2008

So, it’s been a bit over two years since officially expanding the syrup distribution to Pumpkin Village Foods. Your support and generosity has been wonderful, not to mention the surging global interest in food production and sourcing. Providing the government continues to support and enable smaller producers and regional food production, there are exciting times ahead of us. I hope to continue to move in the direction of providing you with true food commodities, in addition to maintaining the specialty food items that are currently provided.

A sincere thanks to all of you who been willing to carry any of the additional products that I now distribute. Your inclusion of Mimmo’s Marinara, VT Cranberry Co. cranberries, VT Soy tofu, Honeygardens honey, Tizane botanical drinks, Vadeboncoeur nougat, VT Pepperworks and Greene’s pepper sauces, Maple City maple candy, and Vermints on your shelves is critical to the continuity of this venture. The high quality of all of these products makes for easy excitement in sharing them with the public. Please do ask for samples for yourself if you’ve yet to taste these fine products. I will be dedicating significant time to demo-ing starting in September through the holiday season. Please let me know if you are having any special events or you might want me to visit for samplings. After this summer, my deliveries should be on strict once a month schedule.

This season was a good one for maple syrup producers in Vermont. As we ended up selling some bulk syrup from last season’s crop, I intend to cautiously provide syrup to a few more stores in New York without overextending our production. If you are interested in visiting during the production season (primarily March and April) please do not be shy to get in touch.

My Toyota Tacoma was determined to have a defective frame along with thousands of other Tacomas around the world. Apparently they had used some steel that was not up to snuff. The Toyota customer service people were more than generous in their compensation for this oversight. This windfall enabled the purchase of a diesel Dodge Sprinter with a 6’ by 10’ cargo space!

Working with the neighbor mentioned last year, a grant for $10,000 was secured to develop an innovative method for processing vegetable oil into biodiesel. We are about to finish our test processor in the hope of finishing a 100 gallon batch processor by mid-summer. Maybe next year we’ll have some oilseed crops in the ground at Green Wind Farm!

In personal news, my longtime girlfriend, Martha, and I visited New York city hall December 23rd to get married. It was a planned event, and are entertaining family and friends to celebrate the occasion this summer. May the warm weather and summer activities treat you and yours well.

Thanks again and see you soon

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