So you still don't believe that syrup is made in Missouri? Truly, there are hundreds 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 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 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 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. They make 15-25 gallons of syrup per year for friends and family.
They tap 3 sugar maple trees per year in northern Boone County using basic supplies purchased from Tap My Trees. Sap is collected every evening, filtered through cheesecloth to remove insects, then stored in a spare refrigerator. When enough is collected, they boil it down in a large roasting pan placed on a metal grate over an open fire fed by cedar and other scrap wood from timber management projects. Boiling takes regular but not constant attention, so they plan it for a day they can do other projects that let
them check on the process. As the sap reduces, they restock it, until
all has been added or they run out of time. It's easy to scorch nearly
finished syrup over a fire, so when it's mostly reduced and starting to
show color, they transfer it to a regular pot and finish it on the
kitchen stove, using a candy thermometer to check for the right
temperature (219°F). Any ashes are filtered out; these lend a pleasantly
subtle smoky flavor. They can generally reduce 15–20 gallons of sap to
1–2 quarts of syrup in a day. Finished syrup is stored in the freezer
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 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 Jefferson County. Sap collects at the bottom of his tubing runs in a pallet tank, which he moves to his homestead with a tractor. 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.
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.