So you don't believe that syrup is made in Missouri? Truly, there are dozens of Missourians busy syrupmaking in the woods in January and February. Because their work is done mid-winter, mostly in obscure locations, there is little public awareness of their labors. For your inspiration, I feature below the profiles of several producers in no particular order from various parts of Missouri, using a variety of methods to collect, transport, store, and process sap into syrup. Some work on a shoestring, others have elaborate and expensive equipment. Some make only a gallon or two of syrup per year. Some have provided complete identity information, and others have provided information but prefer to have their identity protected. If you have a unique syrupmaking method or situation, I can include your profile if you send me your information and approve its posting here.
Brian taps 50 sugar maples and 15 walnut trees on steep slopes in Florissant in north St. Louis County. He collects sap using tubing and buckets at tree base. In a recent year he made 13 gallons of maple syrup and 3 quarts of walnut syrup. He boils in a flat bottom 2'x3' commercial stainless steel pan on a temporary concrete block frame, and finishes to density in his kitchen. After achieving desired density, he pours syrup through syrup filter paper on a rack in a large coffee urn, and fills bottles directly from the urn. He gives away his syrup to family and friends. As for the difference between maple and walnut syrup, he says the walnut might be slightly sweeter, and is definitely darker. Also he remarks that the walnut sap flow starts a few weeks later than the maple.
That's really their name! They tap 6 large silver maple trees (the kind with the big "helicopter seeds") in their yard in Liberty, Clay County using sap sacks. They boil in a stainless steel steam table pan on a double burner propane camping stove, then finish to temperature and filter in their kitchen. In a typical year they make 1-2 gallons of syrup for personal use. They have also tapped sugar maples at a farmhouse nearby which increases their yield.
Al takes pride in being a mentor for beginning syrupmakers...he has identified ways to make syrup without spending much money on supplies. For example he uses plastic milk or tea jugs for collecting the sap
He made his spiles from small-diameter plastic pipe, with a small notch in the top for holding the jug in place so it doesn't fall off.
Their sugarshack is a large room attached to their home near Lonedell in Franklin County, with a large evaporator pan on a masonry firebox, and comfortable furniture, artwork, and antiques. They welcome visitors when they are boiling sap to compare syrupmaking experiences.
Clyde, a retired MU journalism professor, was inspired to make syrup after a trip to Vermont. He taps 8 sugar maple trees on his very steep backyard in Columbia, Boone County. In a recent year, he made 1 gallon of beautiful syrup. He uses plastic spiles directing sap through tubing into plastic icing buckets (with lids) on the ground. He cooks sap in a stainless steel steam table pan placed on a concrete block firebox, with a flue made from hollow blocks. After achieving the right syrup color, he brings it into the kitchen to finish at 7 degrees F above the true boiling temperature of water. He filters through a thick wool fabric prior to bottling.
He taps 20 silver maples and a few sugar maples west of Boonville in Cooper County. He makes 3-4 gallons per year for personal use and to give away to friends. He uses metal spiles, feeding short segments of tubing that flow into 5 gallon buckets on the ground with lids. He boils the sap on stainless steel steam table trays on a 2 burner propane campstove. During a boil, regular monitoring is required to prevent the sap from scorching the pan, and to prevent it from boiling over. He continually adds sap and boils until it is at the desired density, then filters it through paper coffee filters to collect the sediment. As an alternative, he lets syrup cool in large jars and after a few days, the sediment will collect at the bottom, and removes clear syrup with a turkey baster.
They tap over 400 sugar maple trees north of Jackson in Cape Girardeau County, and typically sell over 100 gallons per year at farmers markets. They collect sap through networks of tubing, which drain into large barrels, the contents of which are pumped into a large tractor-borne tank. Sap is pumped to an overhead tank in their sugarshack, which feeds through a filter screen into a firewood-fueled commercial evaporator, and when syrup achieves sufficient density, they move it to a small kitchen where they filter and bottle. Because they like other larger producers, bottle the sap while it is very hot, the bottles seal well and the syrup can be stored for a long time.
They tap 200 maple trees (black, sugar, red) in Cole County west of Jefferson City, collecting sap in buckets at tree base, or in sapsacks hanging from trees. Spiles are plastic, and the sacks hang on short segments of PVC pipe with a keyhole for hanging on the spile. Sap is poured into 5 gallon cooking oil totes with handles, and these are hauled out of the woods using an ATV and trailer. With this many trees, a big sap harvest will require one person 4 hours to make rounds in the 20 acre tract, so it often requires a team. Boiling is done a few miles away near a family home in a 2'x5' stainless steel flat bottom pan over a wood-fueled temporary concrete block firebox with a 8' tall flue made out of 6" diameter galvanized duct metal. When the syrup gets thick, they drain it into stainless steel milk cans and move it to pots on the kitchen stove to monitor density. Filtration is done using a 2-layer conical filter, draining into a coffee urn, from which the jars are filled. If the filters clog too rapidly, they switch from filtration to using a settling method-after the syrup cools in a large jug, they siphon the clear product out, reheat it to about 185 degrees, and then bottle it. Either way, there is some loss of product, but the alternative (a high tech filtration) would be very expensive. They make 15-25 gallons of syrup per year for friends and family.
Tim and Cheryl Vieth tap over 100 trees, connected by tubing in their woods near Marthasville in Warren County. They completed their sugarshack in 2020 which features comforts of a small home; lots of sap storage, running water, electricity with big screen TV, comfortable chairs, a range, microwave, refrigerator, and a propane-powered sap cooker that can blast up to 360,000 BTU/hr when they want to boil in a hurry. They filter with conical filters and finish and bottle their syrup on the stove. Their goal is to make over 30 gallons of syrup each season, possibly more if they can incorporate some neighbor's trees.
The family runs a small engine repair shop, so they have many skills and tools that come in handy. Their trees are located in southern Callaway county, where in a recent year, they tapped 107 sugar maple trees, and produced 47 gallons of syrup which they sell. Sap is collected via a network of tubing, draining into tanks which are hauled to their sugarshack and pumped to an overhead tank. Prior to boiling, they run their sap through a reverse osmosis process (one of only a few in Missouri) that removes a large portion of the water, reducing the boil time. During a boil session, syrup is continuously brought to density on a highly-instrumented commercial wood-fired drop-flue evaporator in the sugarshack, which is a small cylindrical grain bin with concrete floor. From there, syrup is moved to a finishing room where it is poured through filters and bottled.
He has 74 taps connected by tubing in several sugar maple groves near his rural home west of Festus in Ste. Genevieve County. Sap collects at the bottom of his tubing runs in a pallet tank on a small trailer, which he moves to his homestead with a tractor. He uses a vacuum system powered by a vehicle battery to increase sap yield. He uses reverse osmosis (the wheel-mounted RO unit is shown in the attached photo) to reduce the sap volume by 50%, and then boils on a commercial wood-fired evaporator. Coming off the evaporator at density, syrup is moved to a 40 quart pot, then through conical syrup filters into a coffee urn, from which it is bottled. In a recent year, he made 15 gallons, and hopes to grow the volume. James also is host for a Facebook site "Missouri Maple Syrup" which you might want to visit during syrup season as it is a great forum for exchange of questions and ideas.
Larry has been making syrup since 2015 from his grove of sugar maples near New Melle in St. Charles County. He tapped 45 trees in a recent year yielding 5.5 gallons. He uses homemade spiles, connected to 5 gallon buckets on the ground with lids. He collects sap using his ATV, and stores it in a tank until he has enough to boil. Using a sap refractometer he determines sugar content, which typically is 2%, but during freezing weather, after he removed ice disks from his buckets found that the sugar concentration in the remaining sap went up to 3.6-3.8%. He boils in 4 stainless steel steam table trays placed on a temporary concrete block firebox. He finds that he can boil down 60 gallons of sap per day if he attends to the fire and sap refilling regularly. He makes a social event out of boiling, inviting friends over to watch. He takes syrup home in buckets to finish in his garage in a turkey fryer, boiling it up to 219 degrees. Filtering is done through an orlon bag filter, then the syrup is reheated to 180 degrees for bottling in 8 oz maple leaf bottles. He gives away syrup to family and friends.
Rich taps about 100 sugar maple trees near Brunot in Wayne County. In a recent year he collected about 270 gallons of sap, and made about 6 gallons of syrup for family and friends. He hauls the sap in a big tank to his family farm near Union MO where he has a commercial 2'x5' evaporator over an arch (firebox) made from an old steel fuel oil tank. From the overhead tank, the sap flows through copper tubing wrapped around the metal flue to preheat. In addition to syrup he makes maple candy in a maple leaf mold available from the syrup supply houses. He could tap an additional 200 trees if he had the time and help.
This hardworking family (Daryl, Beth, and Nicki Morgan and Katie Hochstedler) keeps busy year-round growing organic vegetables on their farm near Eolia in Lincoln County, (www.hartbeetfarm.com ) and recently expanded into making maple syrup. They produce between 20 and 50 gallons of certified organic/natural maple syrup per year which they sell at the Lake St. Louis farmer’s market. They collect sap in covered buckets at the base of about 100 trees in woods near their home. They use RO, and have a large wood-fired evaporator that boils syrup in stainless steel steam table pans, and then they filter/finish their syrup in the kitchen.
Butch and Darlene Augspurg of www.thebranchranch.com have a sugarshack at their homesite on a beautiful setting near Philadelphia in Marion County, where syrup has been produced for many years. They tap about 100 trees on steep slopes near the Fabius river, connected with a network of 3/16” tubing, with sap collected in large cage tanks, which are hauled by tractor to their sugarshack. They have RO, along with a wood-fired Leader Half-Pint evaporator with drop flue and underfire air for efficient boiling, with syrup finished in their kitchen. They produce between 10-20 gallons of syrup each season, which they sell to their Christmas tree customers who visit their farm.
James (shown here with neighbor and assistant Roger Macom) taps about 100 trees on his land north of Troy in Lincoln County. In recent years he produced up to 20 gallons of syrup which he sells. Sap is collected in sapsacks on trees, poured into barrels pulled by a small tractor, then pumped into a feed tank at his sugarshack, which is a part of his barn. He has a Dominion & Grimm wood-fired evaporator with drop flue, and syrup is finished, filtered, and bottled in the sugarshack from several small finishing tanks where he monitors temperature closely.
Michael taps 18 trees on very steep slopes at his homesite near Hartsburg, in Boone County. He started making syrup in 2015, and recently acquired a Bucket RO system which greatly reduces his fuel use. He boils on a propane-fueled turkey fryer, and finishes/filters in the kitchen. In a typical year he will finish about 5 gallons for family and friends, and sells a small amount of his product.
Jim does not make syrup in Missouri, but I include him because he is the only person I know who makes syrup from BOXELDER TREES! He is perhaps the most westernmost syrupmaker in the midwest - he taps trees along rural creeks near his hometown of Bartley, in southwestern Nebraska. In a recent year from 120 taps he collected 100 gallons of sap and made 1.5 gallons of delicious syrup that he keeps within his family. He boils on a homemade steel pan over a wood-fired temporary concrete block arch and finishes in his kitchen. He says he doesnt know of any other syrupmakers in his state. So we can adopt him as a brother of the sweetwater!
The Hildebrand family of Mexico MO, in Audrain County has made syrup for over 5 years. In a recent year, they tapped 50 silver maple trees with 59 taps, and collected 313 gallons of sap, which made 6 gallons of syrup. They finish and bottle the syrup in their kitchen. The photo above shows their homemade evaporator pans sitting on a firebox made out of a 55 gallon drum. After the photo above was taken, they acquired a new Mason evaporator.
A hobbyist family that made a gallon of syrup in a recent year, the Giffords of Winfield MO in Lincoln County enjoy tapping a few silver maples in the yard of an old farmhouse. Having made syrup for 10 years, their best producer is a 5' diameter tree that can make 10 gallons of sap in a day. If they are boiling a large quantity, they boil it in a cauldron or a 55 gallon drum split in half. For smaller batches, they boil in an electric roasting pan, which if set on high heat, can boil off 10 quarts of water per day.