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From tree to pancake: How this Chelsea producer taps maple syrup, even after a mild winter

Flickr user chiotsrun
A maple syrup tap.

It's sugaring season in Michigan. Did a mild winter and recent burst of warm weather give maple syrup producers anything to worry about?

Kirk Hedding owns H&H Sugarbush, a maple syrup producer in Chelsea. 

Hedding said the warm weather in early March didn’t have him too worried, but he’d rate the season overall as a C-.

“We’ve had worse, and we’ve definitely had a lot better,” he said.

He said typically the maple syrup season is fairly short, only four to six weeks long. If you start too early, Hedding said, you miss out on late sap runs. But if a producer waits too long, the sap run might close completely.

For one gallon of syrup, Hedding said he has to boil down 40 gallons of sap. While new technology, like a reverse osmosis machine, takes some of the water out of the sap, he still relies on old-fashioned wood fires to make syrup.

“The good flavors that you expect from maple syrup and the nice colors from it – the tans and the dark browns and stuff – that comes from the cooking of the sugar in the sap that starts to caramelize,” he said.

He said the syrup-making process basically remains the same as it did a hundred years ago, and it still includes huge reliance on nature.

Listen to the full interview above.

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