Wisconsin’s liquid gold

Sap lines.

Look closely and you can see the lines that transport the sap that will eventually become syrup from Maple Hollow of Merrill, Wisconsin. Photo taken March 16, 2013, by Blizno [Greg Blick] and retrieved from Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Around Wisconsin, it’s the time of the year when maple syrup festivals take place and media outlets (like Wisconsin Public Radio) run features celebrating maple syrup. Last month’s newsletter of the Willy Street Co-op featured the favorite maple syrup at my house: Kickapoo Gold. As Lynn Olson describes,

Phillip and Sarah Gudgeon, makers of certified organic Kickapoo Gold maple syrup and maple cream, share a long family tradition of syrup-making in Wisconsin’s Kickapoo Valley region. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful land in the United States, maple tree stands, or sugar bush, are prolific in the area and have been the source of the sweet sap for hundreds of years there.

A long way from the days when their families would use all manner of containers to collect sap, even a fishbowl, the modern equipment used by the Gudgeons not only meets organic standards (Midwest Organic Standards Association) but their updated process provides a more energy-efficient process overall.

Starting with certified organic maple trees, Phillip says, “We now have over 5,000 taps that we cook from, though not all of them [are] on our home property. Most of these maple stands are on the hillsides with valleys between. This is very conducive to the use of tubing to collect the sap. The smallest tubing begins at the tapped maple tree, and runs pretty much straight downhill to secondary lines, which are angled across the hillside at a 4% slope. They connect to the largest main line, which runs in the valley and to a collection tank.” From there the sap is piped directly to the farm’s on-site sugarhouse.

For the full piece, head here, then check out the Kickapoo Gold website for loads of info and photos.

Finally, a recent Associated Press report notes that

Last year’s unseasonably warm weather took a toll on the Chippewa Valley’s maple syrup output, but local producers say the cooler conditions this year have improved the 2013 outlook significantly.

Syrup flows best in conditions where daytime highs hit the low 40s and overnight lows are in the 20s. Last year, temperatures got into the high 60s in March, which caused sap to stop flowing. But producers say this year’s temperatures are just right, and they’re hoping production will return to normal levels….

Woo-hoo!

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