From tree to table, Kickapoo Gold's production of pure, certified organic maple syrup utilizes a custom hybrid of state-of-the-art technology and repurposed equipment, creating a unique environment in which sustainability and efficiency are achieved without compromising the high quality or delicious taste of the product.
Read about the production process and take the photo tour below, or enjoy a multimedia experience as owner Phil Gudgeon guides you on a detailed video tour of the history and art of Kickapoo Gold's maple syrup production.
Click on any photo for a larger view.
|The Maple trees in the Sugar Bush are tapped with small holes 1.5 inches deep, at a 10-percent upward angle. These modern taps are plastic and feed the sap into a system of plastic tubing that allows for the preservation of the forest by eliminating the need to haul buckets of sap from each tree by foot or by vehicle. |
|Smaller tubes from individual trees feed into a larger mainline tube that snakes through the sugar bush at a 4-percent grade, culminating at a holding tank by the creek bed. A gas-powered pump vacuums the sap through the tubing before piping it directly to the holding tank in the sugar house. This process does not "suck" the sap from the trees, but does result in an up to 50-percent higher yield of sap.|
|The collected sap is stored in one of two 3,300-gallon tanks - repurposed from the farm's dairy days. Here the raw sap goes through the initial filtering process.|
|The filtered sap travels from the holding tank to the sugar house, where state-of-the-art reverse osmosis equipment removes three quarters of the water content from the sap. This is a faster and more highly energy-efficient process than traditional methods, as it reduces the energy use required to evaporate the water from the sap by heating and cooking.|
After moving through the reverse osmosis machine, the sap is piped through to the next room in the sugar house, where it is boiled in a 4-foot by 14-foot evaporator. "To make good syrup," says owner Phil Gudgeon, the sap must "boil hard and fast."
For added efficiency, a steamaway is used over the evaporator. It captures the steam and reuses it. This process callows the evaporator to cook 75 percent more sap with the same energy.
|The water that was removed by reverse osmosis is recycled, piped back to be stored in the second 3,300-gallon tank and used for the daily cleaning and flushing of the equipment.||
||Back at the evaporator, electronic sensors monitor the temperature and sap level, automatically releasing the syrup when ideal conditions are met. |
|After leaving the evaporator, the syrup is heated again for the final filtering. Once again, Phil uses a hybrid of salvaged dairy equipment and modern maple syrup making equipment to perfect the filtering process.|
|The filtered syrup must remain hot for bottling, and does so in a double-walled steel box, specially made to fit on the gas range. Syrup from the spigots fill the bottles, which are initially laid on their sides while the syrup is still very hot, for maximum sterlization and sealing.|