Maple tapping season underway in western Wisconsin
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -A sweet sign that spring is around the corner, maple-tapping season is officially underway in Wisconsin.
And while you may not think of maple syrup when you think Wisconsin, the Badger State ranks 4th in the country for production. the state tree of wisconsin is the sugar maple which is most associated with syrup harvesting but i took a sweet visit to one eau claire family farm doing things just a bit different.
Leffel Roots in Eau Claire, traditionally known for its apple orchards has also been pumping out gallons of maple syrup each season since 2016.
The former owners of the property actually planted dozens of silver maple trees to protect their orchards and it turns out those trees were ripe with sap.
The Leffel family made the inaugural tappings to their trees Sunday and is now waiting to reap the rewards.
But if you’re wondering just how it works, maple syrup is harvested by first inserting a tap into a maple tree, as you might have guessed, and collecting the tree sap. This sap is then processed into syrup and bottled. Laura Leffel says each harvest is entirely at the mercy of the states ever-fickle weather.
“We usually get around 30 gallons of maple syrup and that totally depends on the year, sometimes we can only get 20 and sometimes we get 40, just depends on really the weather,” says Laura. “We want it to be nice and cold, below freezing at night time and we want it to be nice and hot during the day...you want a good contraction and expansion in the tree so that you get that kind of a a vacuum system going.”
The trees on the farm are actually silver maples opposed to sugar maples, which is the state tree of Wisconsin most associated with syrup harvesting. The only different the Leffel’s say is they produce less sugar per gallon of sap and have a shorter season.
On their property they use a pipeline system which they say is much more efficient and less labor intensive than the tradition bucket and tapping technique.
Their tree lines are on slight rolling hills so all the sap flows down into a large vessel that they collect once its full.
Laura says they’ll most likely have sap flowing for the next four weeks then the fun begins and they begin to actually hand make the syrup with large pans and an open flame.
The process itself is super interesting and rich in history so if you’d like to learn more they’re offering free tours of their grounds all you have to do is shoot them a message on their Facebook page.
While maple tree tapping season may be coming to a close in western Wisconsin, that means its time to reap the rewards.
Now once the sap is collected, comes the fun part. The Leffels then transfer whatever sap they’ve collected into a big metal pan, which sits over a fire.
They then start cooking it down, boiling the sap sometimes for as long as a day until the sugar content hits between 66-68%.
Laura Leffel says if you take product off at less than 66%, the syrup will be too watery and if you wait further than 68% the syrup becomes too thick and granulated.
“Its’ just another product that we can offer that comes from our property because one of the things we like to do is have a lot of products that we make personally here,” says Laura. “Plus its kind of a hobby and we’re kind of in a time right now that isn’t super busy, the pruning is done and we haven’t started the planting yet...and to be honest we just really like maple syrup too.”
The trees also contain what is called tree sand that shows up in the boiling process, so over the course of the day when they’re cooking the sap down, they will filter the product about 5 times to make sure that gets removed otherwise it makes for a gritty syrup.
Using an open fire, also gives the Leffel’s final product a smoky flavor.
The Leffel’s say they have collected about 1,000 gallons of sap this season which will equate to about 25 gallons of fresh maple syrup.
Copyright 2022 WEAU. All rights reserved.