OSKALOOSA — It’s been too cold for sap to run from maple trees, but that did not stop the Mahaska County Conservation Board from having an indoor Maple Syrup Festival Friday evening.
“This time last year we were done” tapping maple trees, MCCB Naturalist Laura DeCook said at the Russell Wildlife Area. “Luckily, we had some left over from last year.”
The problem is that the ground has been too frozen for sap to run from the ground up through maple tree roots, she said.
There is about 30 inches of frost in the ground, DeCook added.
Sap begins to run usually when the days get longer and the temperature fluctuates between freezing and thawing — which starts around mid-February, she said.
So, MCCB staff and volunteers decided to give people an indoors Maple Syrup Festival with a presentation and a working model of a maple syrup pre-heater and evaporator. MCCB volunteer Rob Campbell assisted De Cook with the presentation.
“It’s one of those things you really love to do,” Campbell said of making maple syrup. However, the process takes a long time, he added.
Campbell set up a pre-heater and evaporator in the MCCB garage for people to inspect.
“This thing works really well,” Campbell said of the evaporator.
However, a piece of equipment like that can be pricey. It costs about $1,200, he said.
Campbell said sap is poured into the pre-heater and then it runs down into the evaporator where water is boiled away from the sugary syrup that comes out at the end of the evaporator.Then, the sap is strained and then removed to boil some more until there is 66 percent sugar in the sap.
De Cook said people are pretty gung-ho to learn about making syrup until they find out how much sap is needed to make syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, she said.
“The first run has the most sucrose,” Campbell added.
Making syrup also is labor-intensive.
You have to check trees every day and change sap buckets, De Cook said.
“It’s a commitment,” she said.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at email@example.com