Now there is a yet another new development in the industry. This time, though, the change could make life difficult for small, independent producers.
The Vermont Maple Industry Council, an association of maple packers who buy syrup from wholesalers, is spearheading a proposed set of certification standards for producers.
Members of the Windham County Sugar Makers unveiled the standards at their annual meeting last month. There is no deadline for activating the program, but Arnold Coombs, a seventh-generation maple farmer and a member of VMIC, said within the year, most packers will stop purchasing syrup from uncertified farmers.
Being a native Montrealer and devout Francophile, it is a fond wish that my husband Pat, who is of Italian descent and our children (Anton now has a two-year-old sister, Siena) love French culture, too. So this March Break the family is embarking on a trip to Quebec City — as planned by Anton. His mission: to research an itinerary that features a combination of seasonal activities, traditional cuisine and cultural experiences a family could only have in Quebec.
Sap Isn’t the Only Thing Coming Out of the Woodwork in Late Winter
Our family looks forward to sugaring time every year. Even in the heart of winter, when the nights are bitter cold and long, I can close my eyes and almost feel the warmth from the fire under the syrup pans and smell the strong, sweet smell of the maple sap cooking down. Right now the sugarhouse seems as dormant as the maple trees around it, but it won’t be long before the weather takes a turn and our springtime home is once again bustling with activity.
Vermont — the country's largest maple producer — has announced a settlement with McDonald's over complaints that the restaurant chain was improperly labeling a new product as maple flavored in the state.
Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday that the only maple ingredient in McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal was extracted from a bark of a bush that is a distant relative of the maple tree.
McDonald's has agreed starting Feb. 1 to give customers in its Vermont stores pure maple syrup or sugar to add to the fruit and maple product if they request it. This will not apply outside of Vermont.
McDonald's spokeswoman Nicole DiNoia says the company is pleased with the settlement and is happy to continue offering the oatmeal product in Vermont.
Steve Rascher was 4 when he first caught the sugaring bug.
"I picked it up out of necessity," recalled the owner and operator of Rascher's Sugarhouse in the hamlet of Shushan.
"That was during the second world war. It was springtime, and I passed by a sugarhouse by the side of the road. It had all this fragrant steam that was coming out, and I said, ‘I've got to do this.' I talked to Dad about it, and we went to Salem and got some buckets and put them out around the yard. We were set for the year."
The Rascher family emigrated from Sweden in 1941 when Steve, or "Staffan" as he was called at the time, was a young boy. He has been making maple syrup at the family farm ever since, earning statewide and international recognition. On Friday, he will speak to hundreds of organic growers at the annual conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.
Edward Sechler's family has been making maple syrup and voting Republican since the Civil War.
Mr. Sechler, 60, who sells his syrup from Sechler's Sugar Shack in Confluence, has family sugaring records that go back to 1850, even before his great-great-grandfather joined the Union soldiers during the Civil War to show his support for President Abraham Lincoln.
Molly Enos doesn't have that sort of maple sugaring genealogy. Her family tried to make maple syrup once when she was a child; they boiled enough sap to produce about a gallon of syrup and her father burned his tongue badly while tasting it.
But there are thousands of maple trees lining the Enos' Christmas tree farm in Rockwood, Somerset County, so they built a sugaring shack, and Molly Enos, 21, formed her own limited liability company for which she is the president and the sales force.
Got maple trees?
You could be enjoying sweet syrup with your morning pancakes.
And you don't even need fancy equipment to get it.
That's what Slate Altenburg will be telling people at a master gardener seminar Wednesday at the Penn State Cooperative Extension office.
The seminar costs just $3 and each attendee will receive a sap bucket and tap to gather maple syrup.
Where's the maple? McDonald's may have gotten itself in a sticky mess with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (VAA), who says the company's new Fruit & Maple Oatmeal menu item does not actually contain any maple product. That's a violation of Vermont's stringent maple law, and could mean that McDonald's will have to change ingredients or labeling.
"What we understand, is there is no actual maple in the [McDonald's] product being advertised. Vermont maple law and regulations are very specific for how the term maple is used in advertisements," Kelly Loftus, VAA spokesperson told Slashfood. "It is illegal to use the word maple on a product unless the sweetener is 100 percent pure maple. Artificial maple flavoring should be clearly and conspicuously labeled on the principle panel with the term 'artificial flavor'."
McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal ingredient list includes whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural maple flavor with other natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, and caramel color.
In a written statement, McDonald's says they are "currently in discussions with the State of Vermont to ensure that we meet any applicable state standards."
Vermont officials told Slashfood they contacted McDonald's on January 3, but as of this morning, had not yet received a reply from the company. According to WCAX, state officials will give McDonald's 60 to 90 days to respond.
This isn't the first time Vermonters have flexed their muscles over the sweet stuff. In September, state officials took Pinnacle Foods to task over their new line of Log Cabin syrup because of the "all natural" labeling. As a result, Pinnacle Foods removed caramel color from its syrup to comply with FDA regulations, but kept the familiar maple syrup packaging and "all natural" labeling.
Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the country.
"Maple is Vermont's signature product. We take the regulations that sustain the purity of the product extremely seriously. When we see something out there that says maple syrup, but really isn't maple syrup according to our regulations here, well that's something that needs to be addressed," says Loftus.
Continuing a tradition in the Northeast United States that was begun centuries ago by Native Americans and colonists, the Somerset County Park Commission invites children and adults to a 90-minute program to witness how Maple Trees are tapped, learn about sap collecting methods from the past and present, and experience the boiling process that produces delicious New Jersey Maple Syrup.
Free public programs take place at the sugar shack on Saturdays and Sundays, January 22 & 23; January 29 & 30; February 5 & 6; February 12 & 13; February 19 & 20; and February 26 & 27 at 10:00 AM, 12:00 Noon, and 2:00 PM. Participants should allow at least twenty minutes to walk from the Center to the sugar shack. Organized groups, such as Scouts, may schedule demonstrations during one of the time blocks by contacting the EEC at 908-766-2489 ext. 332.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County will offer two workshops for people interested in maple syrup.
The Beginner Maple School will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 21 at the extension, outer Stowe Street, for those who want to learn about syrup production. Students will be shown how to start a sugarbush, the process of tree tapping and the process of leasing trees for maple sugaring.
On Jan. 22, the annual Winter Maple School will be held at Lowville Academy and Central School, North State Street, with four workshops. Topics will vary from new maple production research to renewable energy sources. Registration begins at 9 a.m., and the workshops begin at 9:20.
For more information, call the extension at 376-5270.
Ohio State University’s annual Ohio Maple Days are set for later this month. Three towns in central and northeast Ohio will host workshops designed to help producers get ready for the coming maple syrup season.
Jan. 20 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., in Fulton (Morrow County) at the Lutheran Memorial Camp, 2790 state Route 61.
Jan. 21 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., in Fredericksburg (Wayne County) at the Mennonite Christian Assembly Church, 10664 Fryburg Road.
Jan. 22 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., in Burton (Geauga County) at Joe J.S. Miller’s Window Shop, 15020 Shedd Road.
The program will be the same at all three locations. Bob Crooks of Marcland Instruments USA, Schroon Lake, N.Y., and Bridget Meiring and Gary Graham, both of Ohio State, will be the featured speakers.
Technology will enable Vigo County Parks & Recreation workers to produce four times as much maple syrup per hour this year, while reducing time and costs.
Weather permitting, that means a greater supply of maple syrup for the park department’s annual maple syrup pancake breakfast in February.
Prairie Creek Park in southern Vigo County has about 1,800 maple trees, of which about 1,000 trees, containing 1,500 to 1,600 taps, are used to collect sap boiled down to make syrup.
The park’s existing evaporator is too small, requiring 43 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.
“When you have 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of water to boil, it takes hours and hours and hours. It takes a lot of labor, time and fuel to make syrup,” said Keith Ruble, superintendent of the county parks department.
That all will change with a new reverse osmosis system, purchased for $10,700 through a grant from the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association is holding its annual winter institute this month to update members and producers about new trends and issues facing their industry. The full day forum is being planned for January 15 at the American Legion in Neillsville.
This year's speakers include Lloyd Franz, who will talk about program grants and loans. Steve Anderson will discuss Proposed IMSI Standard Maple Grades. And Joe Polak will touch on the Research Fund and the Research Alliance Program. There will also be an update from Erin Nutter from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture on sanitation rules and regulations in sugar houses and licensing your maple products for all maple producers.
Lunch will be at noon and the cost will be $16.00 per person. This fee will also cover the tax and gratuity. After lunch will be the Maple Queen Coronation, followed by round table discussions.
For more information about the winter institute meeting or to register, call 715-447-5758.
Thousands of South Australians are expected to start diets and detox from today, hoping to shed unwanted kilograms and kick-start New Year's resolutions to stay healthy.
The cookie diet was among the myriad fad diets to emerge in the past 12 months and claims slimmers can eat half a dozen of the treats and still lose weight. Creators recommend one "real" meal a day, plus six of the specially formulated cookies.
The cookies' ingredients include milk, eggs, sugar, wheat and a "secret amino acid protein mix" believed to curb hunger. Also followed during 2010 were the alternate day diet, where devotees fast every second day, and the baby food diet, which involves eating 14 serves of baby food a day and an adult dinner.
Actress Reese Witherspoon has been listed as a follower of the latter.
Followers of the master cleanse detox diet, where cayenne pepper, lemon and maple syrup are combined and consumed, say the concoction helps release the body of poisonous toxins.
Naomi Campbell, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are among the celebrities said to endorse it. Moore is also believed to enjoy the raw food diet, where those taking part eat mostly uncooked food.
Winter can be a long, cold season, especially for those who don't ski or take part in winter sports. But Ambler Farm has a solution to the winter doldrums that will get you and the family outside for a fun activity while supporting the local non-profit.
"Last year 96 families signed up for the Tap-a-Tree Program and we had to start a waiting list," said Kevin Meehan of Ambler Farm. There are only so many trees available for tapping at the farm, so the folks at Ambler suggest signing up early.
"I go out each January and measure the trees to see if they have grown," explained the sap expert. The Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut puts out guidelines to follow as to whether a tree is appropriate for one or two taps. "For one bucket a tree must be 12 inches in diameter, and for two buckets the guideline is 19 inches, but I tend to wait until the tree is 24 inches before adding a second tap." This year, Meehan expects there to be about 70 trees on the farm available for tapping.
Connecticut has the cold winters and sugar maple trees it needs to be a great maple syrup producer, but the state produces the least amount of maple syrup in New England, with about 9,000 gallons in 2010 compared to Vermont's 890,000 gallons.
That's a trend Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut President Mark Harran hopes to reverse with a three-pronged plan aimed at expanding marketing, technology and tree taps on state and privately owned.
Harran said such a change could transform a $1 million industry into a $20 million enterprise in 10 years.
The marketing of New York maple products received a big boost in May 2010 when the Wegmans Food Markets grocery chain became the first major food retailer in the state to offer maple syrup using the new “New York Maple—Taste the Tradition” branding. Syrup packaged under the new ”New York Maple—Taste the Tradition“ label is being sold by a large grocery chain.
Wegmans, one of the largest privately owned companies in the U.S., is selling the branded syrup year-round in all 76 of its stores: 48 in New York, 14 in Pennsylvania, seven in New Jersey, six in Virginia and one in Maryland. Wegmans, established in 1916, had 2009 annual sales of $5.15 billion. Fortune magazine ranks Wegmans number three on its 2010 100 Best Companies to Work For list.