March 10, 2013

Maine syrup producers hope to avoid repeat of last year

Last March, temperatures reached nearly 80 degrees for most of a week, inhibiting sap production by southern Maine maples.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

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Keith Harris of Harris Farm on Buzzell Road in Dayton fills jugs of maple syrup at the farm’s sugarhouse last Thursday. “What I want is what normal used to be,” he said, speaking of this month’s weather.

Photos by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Maple syrup flows at the Harris Farm sugarhouse.

"It comes to a point where I think people realize that these big corporations are producing a lot of their food and people just don't trust them," he said.

Most people who try real maple syrup, Harris and Merrifield said, become die-hard customers who can't go back to the store-bought brands, which are heavy on high-fructose corn syrup.

Merrifield said there are few foods that are as natural as real maple syrup, which was first produced by Native Americans, who taught settlers from Europe how to capture sap by cutting a gash in a maple tree's bark. They boiled off the excess water by tossing heated rocks into a wooden barrel containing the sap.

Today's producers substitute evaporators for the heated rock method, but the goal is still to boil off most of the water in the sap, which comes out of the tree with a sugar concentration of 2 to 4 percent. The liquid is boiled until that sugar concentration reaches about 67 percent.

"You take 40 gallons of sap and boil it and make syrup," Merrifield said. "You can't mess that up."

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:


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