However, the new methods and equipment bring on new problems, and while we think of them as being labor saving, perhaps not! A simple example is cleaning. All those wooden keelers had to be scrubbed clean with hot water and lugged to the woods.
Now we see miles and miles of pretty blue tubing hanging in the woods. Some producers keep it up all year although others will take it down and clean it at the camp. Taking it down and putting it back up is a giant logistics chore in itself. Those who choose to leave it in the woods must find a way to keep or get it clean.
Tim Perkins and Abby van den Berg of the University of Vermont, Proctor Maple Research Center, did an analysis of the cleaning methods of 81 U.S. producers whose tap numbers ranged from 1,015 to 70,000, all of them using tubing with vacuum. Of these, the majority cleaned their tubing using air/water, either blown in from the bottom of the tubing system or sucked into the drop line.
Slightly over one-quarter of the producers used the “dry clean” method in which spouts are pulled with the vacuum pump on, and any residual sap is sucked out of the tubing system. Some producers did no cleaning or used some other method, understanding that the drop lines, when removed from the trees, are plugged back into the larger lines so no new unwanted material can enter the line.
Some producers have found that when tapping in the spring, letting the “first run” go on the ground (through the lines, but not into the storage tank) is very effective at cleaning.
In another survey of producers, using 205 participants, some using gravity and some vacuum, the results were much the same in choice of method. Quite a dissertation is made in the October Maple Digest on the value of chemical cleansers, rinses, labor involved etc. for those who wish to know more.
Cleaning the lines is one problem; there’s the storage tank to clean, the R.O., the evaporator, the canning equipment, and on and on. So it’s labor intensive whether you’re scrubbing and lugging heavy wooden keelers and driving a team, or piping sap directly to your camp. There’s a good story going around about a purchaser of syrup who thought the price was way too high until he tried boiling his own and then decided the producers were selling way too cheap.
Sweeten up your holidays with this wonderful maple cheesecake from Taste of Home magazine, very fitting in the Land of Milk and Maple.
Prep: 30 min bake: 1 1/4 hours — chilling