Since 2007, students have been running Ithaca’s very own maple syrup production business; turning semi-sweet sap into rich, golden, delicious maple syrup. Every step in the process is run by students, from tapping the trees at our on-campus sugarbush, to bottling and finally marketing the finished product. We tap about 100 maple trees in our sugarbush.
How Much Syrup Have we Made?
2008-2009 season 5 gallons
2009-2010 season 2.5 gallons
2010-2011 season 10.8 gallons
2011-2012 season 10.5 gallons
2012-2013 season 18.1 gallons
2013-2014 season 8.67 gallons
2014-2015 season 15.9 gallons
2015-2016 season 18.2 gallons
How Maple Syrup is Made:
Step 1: In February, students drill and hammer taps and hooks into trees. We mainly use sugar maple but, other maples work as well.
Step 2: We hang buckets from metal hooks and wait for the flowing sap to collect. Day by day, the sap collects in the buckets which have to be frequently emptied into storage containers.
Step 3: We have multiple storage containers, some of which carry 30-40 gallons. Once the storage containers are full we filter the sap and the evaporator is fired up.
Step 4: …and the boiling begins! Our wood-fired evaporator seems perpetually hungry for logs which we dutifully chop throughout the boil. As the fire burns, the yellowish sap, bubbling tumultuously, begins to transform into a thick, deep amber, hardly visible through the plume of steam roaring up from the glistening steel evaporator pan. When the boil is nearly done, we empty the contents of the evaporator into buckets and bring them into the lab.
Step 5: We continue the boil (but indoors this time) using big metal pots, fancy hotplates, thermometers, and refractometers – all to insure the most perfect tasting syrup we could create. At the exact right sugar content (determined by our refractometer), the boiling is complete and the bottling can begin.
Step 6: Each glass bottle is carefully filled, capped, tagged and labeled. As soon as students set a fair price for our liquid gold, bottles start selling off the shelf! Our syrup is sold in Jason Hamilton’s lab, the bookstore, and our annual maple syrup open house in which we invite members of the community to tour the Sugar Bush and take part in our final boil of the season.