Spring is right around the corner. If the rising temperatures weren’t enough to convince weary Wisconsinites of that, the fact that maple syrup producers are tapping trees certainly should.
“This really is our busy season,” says Theresa Baroun, a syrup producer in Brown County. “Most people around Wisconsin are already tapped…we did our first run over the weekend and we did our first cooking on Sunday.” Baroun, who is also the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association, explains the weather has to be above freezing during the day and freezing at night for tree tapping, meaning the recent conditions have been ideal.
Wisconsin is known as a top producer when it comes to dairy and cranberries, but it is also a hub for maple syrup production. The state ranks fourth in the nation for cranking out syrup behind only Vermont, Maine, and New York.
Baroun’s family business, Maple Sweet Dairy in De Pere, has been producing fresh maple syrup since 1964. Growing up with ten brothers and sisters on the family farm made for a fun upbringing and turned producing syrup into a storied family event. “Still to this day the family comes out to help with the collecting and the cooking…it’s a family tradition,” she says. “That’s why the industry seems to just shine more and more because people really like that enjoyment of it and being together.”
As for the actual tapping process, Baroun says you first find a maple tree that is at least ten inches in diameter to tap. From there you insert the tap into the tree and “tap it in until you hear a hollow sound, put your bucket on or your pail on, and wait for that sap to start running.” It’s important to collect the sap as soon as possible and cook it at the earliest convenience. “The quicker you cook your sap, the more quality syrup you’ll get from that sap,” Baroun proclaims.
For anyone seeking more information on Wisconsin’s maple syrup industry, visit the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association’s website.