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Making Maple Syrup

Article By Bob Kalish
Brunswick Times Record
March 23, 2000
Photos by Paul Cunningham

DRESDEN-- A new sugar shack on the Dresden site of Goranson's Farm will consolidate the farm's maple syrup operation, which previously had been divided between Whitefield and Dresden.  

What makes this year different is that the syrup, which used to be marketed under the Elderberry Hollow name, will be labeled with Goranson's Farm's own label.   The change came about with the sale of Rob Johanson's family farm in North Whitefield. The syrup was made there, even though some of the trees that were tapped are on the farm in Dresden. 

 According to Johanson, who with his wife, Jan Goranson, runs the farm, the sale of the Whitefield fami y farm won't change much.  

"Actually," Johanson said, "instead of taking the sap from Dresden to Whitefield to boil it, now we're taking the sap from Whitefield to Dresden and boiling it down here. But the advantage for us is that we don't have a half-hour drive after boiling sap all day." 

 A new 22-by-24-foot sugar shack at the farm on River Road.is being used for the first time to boil the sap down to syrup. Johanson and Goranson expect to end up with about 250 gallons by the end of the season, which is determined by the temperatures.  

"Ideally," Johanson said, "the temperatures should be between 20 and 40 degrees. You need a good freeze and a good thaw to get the sap running. We had a good start about four weeks ago, which is early. Then it got cold and stayed cold. Now it's just about perfect."  

The new sugar shack is fully automated. Sap is loaded into steel containers that are set up high. As a result, the sap is fed by gravity through copper and plastic tubing to the large shallow pan in which it is boiled down. The ratio of sap to syrup depends on the time of the season, according to Johanson.  

"At the beginning, because there is a lot of sugar in the sap, it takes about 25 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. Toward the end of the cycle, it is about 60-to-1."  

The sap flow is controlled by a float. As the water is boiled off, the thickening syrup collects in the center of the pan, where another sensor records the temperature. When the temperature gets to 219 degrees Fahrenheit, the syrup is ready to be poured off and bottled.  

Depending on when the boiling is done, the syrup can be any color from dark to light, but is still classified as grade A in Maine. The grading system in Maine is based on color, not quality, Johanson said, unlike other states.  

The couple sell their syrup at their farm stand in Dresden and in farmers' markets in Bath and Brunswick. They will give tours between 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday during Maine Maple Sunday's promotion of local maple syrup producers. 


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