Preparing for the 2024 Maple Season

Temperatures are falling, winter is on its way, and the 2024 maple season will be here before you know it! For the December Maple Hour, Jim Adamski joined us to talk about the key things you can do to prepare now. Jim runs a small commercial operation near Antigo, and he’s coming up on his 40th spring making syrup. By following Jim’s tips and being proactive, you can set yourself up for a great maple season.

Sanitation: If you use a tubing system, there’s still time for some last-minute sanitation as long as the weather is warm enough. For those of you who reuse taps or buckets, it’s also a good time to double-check that they are clean and ready to go, and you should re-sanitize if you smell any mildew. Of the common bleach options, Jim prefers calcium hypochlorite because it (unlike sodium hypochlorite) doesn’t attract animals—but make sure to get a food-grade product, not one meant for a swimming pool, and dilute it down to 200 parts per million.

Evaporators and reverse osmosis: Make sure to assemble your evaporator well in advance so that you have time to order any missing parts. And if you need to send your reverse osmosis membranes in for cleaning, sooner is better than later. Turnaround times for parts and cleaning are faster now than they will be in February.

Refractometers and pH meters: Have you calibrated your tools lately? Doing so is an important step toward producing high-quality syrup.

Bottles and labels: Now is a good time to stock up on bottles so that you have enough for the quantity of syrup you hope to produce. Keep in mind that custom-printed labels tend to have a long lead time, so plan ahead if you want to use them, and make sure that the Nutrition Facts on your labels match the FDA’s current guidelines.

Watch the full discussion below for more details on all those suggestions, plus Jim’s advice for prepping vacuum pumps and releasers, filters, and tapping bits and hammers. Jim also shared his “January 1 Checklist” of annual tasks related to safety and insurance.

Looking for more maple events this winter? The WMSPA Winter Institute is happening January 5–6, 2024, in Marshfield. Jim will be involved in several sessions there, including an interactive taste-testing workshop (“Maple 201”), and Wisconsin Extension Maple Program Manager Tony Johnson will present on sugarbush forestry. Explore the full program here.

We also have two more Maple Hours already on the calendar: on February 15, Jim will return to talk with us about best practices for tapping, and on March 13, Mary Bartkowiak will talk with us about invasive plants that can impact your sugarbush.

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