Marple's Maple Products
The Marple Story, as told by James Marple
The Marple maple grove is located on a dead end road in Liberty, Maine. My grandfather made syrup on this same property 80 years ago. About 5 years ago I had 30 acres thinned out, leaving just the maple trees. Amazingly enough there are about 2,000 maple trees in there, which are growing pretty fast and soon will all be big enough to tap. I reconditioned the old shop where, when I was a child in the 60's, we used to cook off our syrup. At first it was my oldest brother who used a 55 gallon drum cut in half. He'd set it on a pile of rocks and build a fire under it and keep pouring the sap in and cooking it off. When he got enough he would bring it into the house and dad would finish it off on the kitchen stove. We always made extra dark syrup but it was always good, and the smoke and ashes seemed to make it better. We would find about 30 trees to tap and I still remember which ones gave us the most sap. I remember the old home made stove dad had in the garage. You could take the cover off and put the pan right on top over the fire. In the nineties I leased fifty acres in Freedom and built a sugar house and put up miles of pipe and tubing. I made awful good syrup there for about 12 years. Now it's right back at it again on the old home property. I can't tell you where I got this obsession to make maple syrup except it is something to keep me busy when there isn't much going on in the spring. I always need a project and there is nothing more satisfying and traditional than making maple syrup.
When you start to get more professional, quality is the main goal, so I use a small Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine powered with propane so I don't need to burn wood for fuel. This "sugar kitchen" is intended to make it possible to make good quality products in sanitary conditions.
There is a lot of labor up front to bring, and keep the trees, "ready" for optimal production. Brush is kept clear of the pipelines, trees are pruned as necessary, and a multitude of taps need to be drilled each year. A knowledgeable "sapper" sustainably taps to ensure the tree still gets plenty of sugar to thrive. This provides lots of opportunities for exercise and "muscle development". Let's call it being "sap fit". The trees are tapped just before sugar season starts and gravity carries the sap through tubes to a pump, then up to the kitchen. Generally it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. However, depending upon the weather and type of tree, this can vary widely. The results are wildly beyond our control at this point and Mother Nature has her say. Once the sap makes its way to the kitchen is where the human labor begins (I use the term, "labor" loosely because it's actually a lot of watching and waiting at this point). The RO machine is the first processing station, where the majority of the water is pulled out of the liquid sap, leaving a more concentrated sap solution. From there it goes to the evaporator where even more water is cooked off. This is now considered syrup because it's beginning to thicken up. From here it gets finished off in a pan, then bottled for distribution, poured into candy molds to harden, or into a heavy duty mixer until it turns to yummy maple sugar.
The good news is that you can purchase Marple's Maple Syrup at local farmer's markets and on Waggin' Tail Farm!