Starting a Farm to Table Transition
We offer the best quality maple products and are proud to say it! The taste alone is something to brag about. But there's more. Lots more! At Matter Farms we think of taste and quality in every step of the way. Can you tell we're passionate?!?!
CONSERVATIVE TREE TAPPING
We consider tree care extremely important. Our grandchildren will be able to tap the same trees if they choose. We tap our trees conservatively. Our minimum tree size for tapping is 16 inches in diameter; which translates into about a 50 year old tree. Some of our biggest trees are 3 feet in diameter and are 200 years old. That means those tree sprouted in the early 1800's. This area used to be known as the 'Big Woods'. Modern civilization has removed or disturbed almost all original wooded areas, but the 2 wooded areas we use for tapping are still original Big Woods trees. We plan to care for them and keep them as they are. In addition to conservative tree tapping we use tree saver taps and take down our sap tubing each year. Taking the tubing down is not typically done in syrup production. We do this because we're able to take better care of the tubing so it will last longer resulting in less waste. Also we can clean the lines better and there is no plastic left in the woods.
SELECTING THE RIGHT MATERIALS
When selecting the materials our maple products come in contact with we choose stainless steel to prevent aluminum, lead, or other heavy metals from leaching into your foods. If we are forced to use plastics we choose food grade plastics to prevent plastic leaching into foods. Cleaning and sanitizing is done with natural products including vinegar and food grade 35% hydrogen peroxide. Never bleach. The peroxide cleans better, but costs 8 times more. It's worth it. We bottle using glass. It doesn't leach into your food and it recycles better.
DIFFERENT GRADES OF SYRUP
Something I never knew was that there are different grades of syrup. Grades are described by the color and taste of the syrup. Light syrup is typically produced in the early season and it gets darker throughout. Keep in mind syrup season is a few weeks long, so the grade changes with each batch usually. This is caused by changes in the weather, sugar content of the sap throught the season, the trees themselves, and even the minerals in the soil. In my personal opinion the light syrup is like a vanilla ice cream flavor. Light and sweet. Medium is like a caramel flavor and very broad use. Dark is bold, robust maple flavor.
HOW IS SYRUP MADE?
Maple syrup comes from tapping maple trees. There are other variety of trees used for syrup including birch trees. Sap is collected in the woods and transported to our sugar shack. Right now we are using a car port shed/tent, but sales and production have increased to the point that we have began the process of constructing a permanent sugar shack. We're very excited for that! Once the sap is at the sugar shack we pump it up into a tote on a tall stand. This allows us to use gravity to push the sap into the pans as we boil. It takes 40 gallons of sap to boil down to make 1 gallon of syrup. Our current set up allows us to boil at an approximate rate of 50 gallons per hour. We boil using professional stainless steel pans from a very reputable company. When we boil we are boiling off water and it evaporates leaving a higher concentration of sap and eventually syrup is made. There is a specific brix system used to measure when syrup is done. We burn wood in our ovens. The flavor of wood fired syrup, by popular opinion, is far superior to other boiling methods. More man hours are needed to prepare the wood for each season, but again, it's worth it. Once the sap is done boiling and comes to 68 brix it is drawn off the boiling pans and collected. It is then run through a stainless steel filter press that removes impurities and bottled at a very precise temperature.
A big reason we've invested so much into maple syrup is to have an opportunity to work together as a family. Our son calls it 'Family Power' when we all work together and get the job done. It's better than horse power. We want to pass on our farm, work ethics, skills, and entrepreneur mentality to our children.