Since 2007, students have been running Ithaca’s very own maple syrup production business; turning semi-sweet sap into rich, golden, delicious maple syrup. Every step in the process is run by students, from tapping the trees at our on-campus sugarbush, to bottling and finally marketing the finished product. We tap about 96 maple trees in our sugarbush.
How maple syrup is made:
Check out our Vine to experience tapping a tree in 8 seconds, and check out the YouTube video below for a start-to-finish experience.
Step 1: In February, students drill and hammer taps and hooks into trees. We mainly use sugar maple but, other maples work as well.
Step 2: We hang buckets from metal hooks and wait for the flowing sap to collect. Day by day, the sap collects in the buckets which have to be frequently emptied into storage containers.
Step 3: We have multiple storage containers, some of which carry 30-40 gallons. Once the storage containers are full we filter the sap and the evaporator is fired up.
Step 4: …and the boiling begins! Our wood-fired evaporator seems perpetually hungry for logs which we dutifully chop throughout the boil. As the fire burns, the yellowish sap, bubbling tumultuously, begins to transform into a thick, deep amber, hardly visible through the plume of steam roaring up from the glistening steel evaporator pan. When the boil is nearly done, we empty the contents of the evaporator into buckets and bring them into the lab.
Step 5: We continue the boil (but indoors this time) using big metal pots, fancy hotplates, thermometers, and refractometers – all to insure the most perfect tasting syrup we could create. At the exact right sugar content (determined by our refractometer), the boiling is complete and the bottling can begin.
Step 6: Each glass bottle is carefully filled, capped, tagged and labeled. As soon as students set a fair price for our liquid gold, bottles start selling off the shelf! Our syrup is sold in Jason Hamilton’s lab, the bookstore, and our annual maple syrup open house in which we invite members of the community to tour the Sugar Bush and take part in our final boil of the season.
How much syrup have we made?
2008-2009 season 5 gallons
2009-2010 season 2.5 gallons
2010-2011 season 10.8 gallons
2011-2012 season 10.5 gallons
2012-2013 season 18.5 gallons
2013-2014 season 8.67 gallons
Did you know…?
- It takes 40-60 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup.
- We have two different bottle sizes, 3.4 to 8.5 ounces.
- The syrup grades we produce are Grade ‘A’ Vermont Fancy, Grade ‘A’ Medium Amber, and Grade ‘B’.
- The “grade” of maple syrup is determined solely by the color of the syrup. The sugar content among grades is the same, but many feel that the darker grades such as Grade ‘B’ are far more rich and flavorful, while lighter grades have a more delicate, sweeter flavor.
- During the 2013 season, we broke records and made an astonishing 18.5 gallons of maple syrup!