By PETE KLEIN
Express News Staff
he sap is running at McComb’s Oak Hill Farm, down Elm Lake Road in Speculator. With an unseasonably cold March, the maple syrup sap run didn’t get off the ground until last week but is in full swing now with the perfect conditions of mild days and cold nights.
Dave McComb and his wife Karen, plus friends, are busy from mid afternoon boiling the sap and converting it into that sweet syrup we love.
You might say that if Dave had wings, he would be a rather large woodpecker because he currently taps about 1,700 trees on his sugarbush.
He is also a plumber of some repute because the taps on the trees are connect to the sugar shack by miles of plastic tubing.
In the sugar shack, the syrup first is collected in two large stainless steel holding tanks where it is feed into a “La Fendeuse” reverse osmosis maple sap concentrator which concentrates the sugar in the sap from about a 2 percent sugar solution to about a 10 percent sugar solution.
From the concentrator, the next step is for the sap being feed into a large stainless steel wood boiler where the sap becomes maple syrup with a minimum of 66 percent sugar.
Spring is a busy time for Dave but not the only busy time. That boiler requires tons of firewood which Dave has to cut and thus adds lumberjack to his list of year-round hobbies.
If everything goes according to plan and conditions remain favorable, Dave expects to make about 400 gal. of maple syrup this year.
The only other recognized maple syrup producer in Hamilton County is Leadley’s Adirondack Sugarbush, also in Speculator.
Sap must first be collected and boiled down to obtain pure syrup without chemical agents or preservatives. Maple syrup is made by boiling the sap, usually at a temperature 7.4 degrees F over the boiling point of water.
Maple syrups have a complex set of flavor components, some of which come from concentration and some from chemical reactions during the heating and evaporation process.
Although pure maple syrup contains mostly natural sugars, it contains other substances as well. Minerals absorbed be the trees are present, especially calcium. Phenols and antioxidants are present and can be active against cancer and free radicals. Potential health advantages of these natural compounds have been demonstrated in laboratory testing.
Maple syrup is similar to sugar with respect to calorie content, but is a source of manganese, with 13 grams containing about 0.44 milligrams, or 22 percent of the US Food and Drug Administration Daily Value of 2 milligrams. It is also a source of zinc with 13 grams containing 0.55 milligrams or 3.7 percent of the DV percent of 15 milligrams.
Compared to honey, maple syrup has 15 times more calcium and 1/10 as much sodium.
So with all of this natural good stuff in maple syrup, don’t worry about the calories and just indulge your sweet tooth.