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Late Summer Update

by Don 9/1/2019 2:24:00 PM

 

Time has slipped away this summer and once again, it is Labor Day weekend. We've done a lot of work in the sugarbush this summer and it's time to get a post on our website.

 Following the end of season cleanup, our new evaporator is back in pristine condition.

The Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Meeting was held in Aitkin, MN mid-May and attended by over 100 sugar makers. Presentations included proper cleaning and sanitation methods as well as latest regulatory updates. The annual "crop report" given by individual sugamakers identified consistently high sap production, deep snow for putting in taps/assessing for leaks and exhausted members who trekked through the deep snow.

 The annual syrup contest had 6 judges, blind tasting of syrup samples and eager sugar makers, hoping their syrup won and would give bragging rights for another year! Somerskogen Sugarbush did quite well with a first place finish in the Amber Rich and a second place award in the Dark Robust division. We were quite pleased!

 We will see how our maple syrup compares at the International Maple Syrup meeting in October. This year the international meeting will be held in Duluth, MN.

 Our plans for the off-season include replacing and upgrading the tubing system in the remaining portion of our sugarbush. This will allow us to maximize the vacuum system and incorporate the latest in tubing technology. All of the tubing enhancements will be done by Roth Sugarbush from Cadott, WI.

First Syrup!

by Don 3/24/2019 8:08:00 AM

Where there is sap, surely syrup will follow at Somerskogen! The inaugural event of our new propane evaporator occurred on Friday, Mach 22nd. A few hiccups of function (not recognizing a low pressure reset, tweaking a float box to properly function and managing huge amounts of condensation) delayed the start of our evaporator until early afternoon.  Once operational, the power of a 1.2million BTU burner was realized.  We had sap boiling within 10 minutes and our first syrup made within an hour! The automatic draw off was fun to watch and we hope to include a video of its operation with our next post.

We have been getting sap flows of 0.5-0.7 gallons per tap per day. We continue to look for leaks in lines or fittings to maximize the vacuum pressure.  We know that every one inch of vacuum over 20 increases sap yield by 10%. We are not yet at that level. Many of our older fittings have micro leaks which require attention.

The forecast looks very favorable and could determine the overall success of our season.

 

 

Fall Update

by Don 11/28/2018 6:37:00 AM

    Despite no entries during the post season, Team Somerskogen has not been idle. We are in the process of upgrading equipment, repairing damage from a forest fire  and venturing into new products.  Here are a few updates:

    Our 20 year old flue pan (the first pan that holds the sap) started leaking at the end of the season, despite our best efforts to stop the constant dripping sap.  The pan was a lead-free soldered pan, whereas new models are all tig-welded  stainless steel.  A decision was made to replace our woodburning workhorse of 20 years, and upgrade to a state of the art gas-fired evaporator.  Will we miss the charm and warmth of a wood fire? Yes! Will we miss the ongoing need to cut and split wood? No!

    Trading in our woodburner, we installed a 3x10 CDL Deluxe evaporator (see pictures).  This required significant changes to our sugarhouse with new roof jacks, feeder tanks repositioned and a propane tank place near the sugarhouse, between the maple trees.

    The second major change in the sugarbush occurred May 4, 2018.  While we were out of town, a tree fell on a power line at the southern end of our property and started a fire in the dry underbrush.  An alert neighbor notified the fire department and three hours later, five fire trucks extinguished the spreading blaze that charred two acres.  

    The hardy maple trees survived, but all the sap lines were melted and destroyed.  Weeks of removal and reinstallation of new sap lines occurred over the summer and fall. The misfortune of the fire resulted in an updated tubing system  as the maple industry has evolved since the time we first installed our vacuum tubing network.

    The other big development at Somerskogen Sugarbush has been our venture into barrel-aged maple syrup.  We partnered with our new friend, Tom Slattery of JJ's Wine, Spirits and Cigars in Sioux Falls, SD to age our maple syrup in a Kentucky bourbon barrel that had high-quality bourbon  (Buffalo Trace) aged in it for 8 years. As the maple syrup went into the barrel, the aroma was nothing short of amazing! With monthly tastings, we decided the Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup was ready to be bottled after 4 months. Our allotment rapidly sold out and never made it on the website. However, in the good news department, we recently obtained two more barrels from Tom Slattery (Four Roses and Knob Creek), filled them with maple syrup and look forward to more delicious Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup in 4-6 months. Stay tuned!

    So, as you can see, we've been busy in the off-season, getting ready for Spring 2019 and hopefully, a new record amount of maple syrup.

    Thank you to all of you who read our periodic blog, spread the word about our favorite hobby and buy our maple syrup. We appreciate it!