ARUNDEL, Maine — Despite the snow slated for New England this weekend, we're getting ready for the 40th year of Maine Maple Sunday. This week's Outside Edge takes us from tree to table.
Casey Belanger, owner of 207 Tappers in Arundel has about 800 taps throughout two sugar bushes, a process that's 12 years in the making. Getting ready for the sugaring season starts in the depths of winter.
"I usually worry about my woods first before I do my sugarhouse," Belanger said. "There’s so sense in getting the sugarhouse ready if there’s no sap to boil. About the middle of January, I start tapping."
Belanger said that once you have the infrastructure of the main lines, there's minimal maintenance each season. This includes checking for leaks, blown-down trees after storms, and any critters that may be disrupting the process.
From there, it’s up to Mother Nature to give some above-freezing days and below-freezing nights for the sap to run. After running through the pump house, the sap is taken via storage containers to the sugarhouse and into the reverse osmosis machine.
"Right now we get sap about 1.3-1.4 percent. It takes somewhere around 60 gallons to make a gallon of syrup. I run it through the machine and I can bring it to about 11-12 percent and that brings it to about 8-10 gallons to make a gallon of syrup," Belanger explained.
The next step is boiling the sap and waiting for the liquid gold to be dense enough to be syrup. Belanger aims to turn sap into syrup within 24 hours.
He's been passionate about this hobby since his dad and uncle started tapping trees when he was in grade school.
"I was in high school at the time, and kind of said, 'Dad, let’s do it.' They had taken a year off and he said, 'If you want to do it, we can do it, you can run most of it,' and from there, I’ve been addicted to it," Belanger said.
Now 23 years old with plans for expansion, it’s a hobby that’s only getting sweeter.
"To be able to produce it and watch people enjoy it and having friends over on a Friday and Saturday night and having a good time in here, that’s what makes it all worth it," Belanger said.
207 Tappers will be open both Saturday and Sunday with activities for Maine Maple Weekend.