Friday, March 21, 2008

Ohio Maple Syrup at the Logan Brothers Family Farm.

Amy Maurer’s Tuesday guest was an Ohio maple syrup producer.

Joe Logan is a Trumbull County farmer whose family produces maple syrup. He was in Columbus to attend a meeting on the “buy local produce” marketing movement.

The Logan family farm is a fifth generation operation. Some of the farming operations are part of a family tradition, including the maple syrup production, Logan said he remembers his grandfather telling him that collecting the sap and evaporating it to syrup is good exercise to get ready for the hard work of Spring.

A stand of maple trees was on the farm when it was first established by Logan’s ancestors.

Although Ohio is fourth or fifth in gallons of maple syrup produced, Logan said that Ohio is generally not thought of as a maple syrup producing state.

Logan said that birch trees also produce a sap that is made into a pleasant syrup.

Logan discussed technical aspects of making the syrup. He said the percentage of sugar and quality of sap varies from tree to tree in the same stand of maples.

When asked about the origins of making syrup from the sap of maple trees, he said that legend attributes the practice to native Americans. Logan speculated that someone tasted sap that was “bleeding” from an injured tree and recognized the sweetness of a sugar.

When sap runs it is clear like water and tastes like water with a couple spoons of sugar diluted in it. The unit of measurement for the amount of sugar in sap is the “brix”

Logan compared the amount of sugar in a typical grape (23 ½ brix) with the amount of sugar in a typical sap (59 brix) about to crystallize.

In discussing the pleasure of maple syrup, Logan said that he thought there is probably a genetic compulsion in people to enjoy sugar. He said that if there is this compulsion, it helps us get through the winter.

Another indigenous sweetener is honey.

In discussing when sap runs in a maple tree, Logan said that the trees respond to temperature. The rules are fairly simple. When temperatures are below 32 degrees, there is no sap running. When temperatures are above 32 degrees, the sap responds. The “window of opportunity” to collect commercial amounts of sap is fairly brief. It is a period when the Winter freeze changes to the Spring thaw. When there have been three or four consecutive days of temperatures above 32 degrees, the days of collecting sap for maple syrup are over. Sap that is collected after the first few days becomes bitter with a flavor that hints of flower buds.

To collect the sap, two inch holes are drilled into the tree trunks. A “spile” is placed into the hole and buckets are hung.

A maple tree with the girth of twenty-four inches will yield two buckets of sap.

The buckets are carried to the sugar house where it is held temporarily in a 1600 gallon tank. The raw sap is then evaporated to a sugar concentration of 59 brix. A float valve releases the raw sap into a sixteen feet by five feet pan. This evaporation pan is heated by a wood fire until the syrup is concentrated at 59 brix.

Packaged for distribution to customers. Logan said that the family farm has a long established customer base in the area. He said that maple syrup has an indefinite shelf life. If the syrup crystallizes, Logan said that placing the container in warm water for a brief time will re-liquify the syrup.

The last sap collected each year yields darker, less sweet syrup. It is usually purchased by syrup dealers who re-sell it to Vermont processors for blending into commercially-produced maple syrups.

The farm is named Logan Brothers Family Farm and is located near Kinsman in Trumbull County, Ohio.

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