Hillis' Sugarbush Farm & Vineyard FAQ

Here is some of our most common FAQ, feel free to ask us any other questions you may have via our contact page

How many gallons of sap does it take to make a gallon of syrup?
How many taps do you have?
How many gallons of maple syrup does Sugarbush Farm make each year?
What type of fuel do you use in your evaporator?
Does it hurt the maple tree to tap it and take the sap?
How many taps can you put in a maple tree?
How old does a maple tree have to be before it can be tapped?
How much sugar is actually in maple sap?
How long has Sugarbush Farm been making maple syrup?
How many generations in your family have been sugaring?
Is sugaring your full-time job?
Where's all of your high-tech machinery that I've seen in other sugar houses?
How are the different grades of syrup made?
What is the best grade of syrup?
Is anything added to the maple syrup while it is being produced?
What has to be done the rest of the year for maple sugaring?
How do you know when the maple syrup is finished boiling?
How is the grade of syrup determined?
Do I need to refrigerate my jug of syrup after I open it at home?
Is your syrup organic?
What can I do with maple syrup other than use it on pancakes?
When is the sugar house open for visitors and purchasing syrup?
Can I place an order for a certain grade/size jug during sugaring?




Q: How many gallons of sap does it take to make a gallon of syrup?
A: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure, maple syrup!

Q: How many taps do you have?
A: We currently have about 500 taps, mostly on pipeline, and the rest on about 50 buckets.

Q: How many gallons of maple syrup does Sugarbush Farm make each year?
A: This varies, but in a good year we'll make over 100 gallons of maple syrup, and in a not-so-good year we'll make about 50 gallons.

Q: What type of fuel do you use in your evaporator?
A: We use wood harvested from our farm to heat the evaporator. Wood is a free, renewable fuel source for us. We also heat our home with 2 wood stoves.

Q: Does it hurt the maple tree to tap it and take the sap?
A: No, the tree is not hurt if the sugarmaker follows guidelines on how many taps each tree can have, rotating placement of taps each year, and carefully managing the sugarbush.

Q: How many taps can you put in a maple tree?
A: This depends on the size of the tree. A tree that is 10 inches in diameter can have one tap, and bigger trees can have more taps

Q: How old does a maple tree have to be before it can be tapped?
A: About 40 years old. We have a few maples that are more than 200 years old!

Q: How much sugar is actually in maple sap?
A: Maple sap averages about 2% sugar, 98% water. Maple syrup contains 67% sugar, 33% water.

Q: How long has Sugarbush Farm been making maple syrup?
A: We started making maple syrup in our smaller sugarhouse in 1988. Following the extensive damage to our sugar maples during the ice storm in 1998, we did not sugar for 2 years. Our current sugarhouse was built in 2000 and we began sugaring again in 2001.

Q: How many generations in your family have been sugaring?
A: We are first generation sugarmakers!

Q: Is sugaring your full-time job?
A: No, we wish we could sustain ourselves on just maple syrup production, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage or college tuition quite yet! Jim is a chemist with a food science degree, and Judy is a speech-language pathologist. Our daughter, Julianne, and son-in-law Chris live in Colchester and both have full time jobs along with helping on the farm. Our son, Jordan, is serving in the United States Marine Corps and our youngest son, Jake, is a high school student at Essex Technical Center.

Q: Where's all of your high-tech machinery that I've seen in other sugar houses?
A: We are a traditional operation. The way we make maple syrup is very similar to how it was made 100 years ago!

Q: How are the different grades of syrup made?
A: The calendar, the maple trees, and the weather determine the grade of syrup. Lighter syrup is generally made earlier in the season, and darker syrup is usually made later in the season.

Q: What is the best grade of syrup?
A: All of the grades are best! It all depends on personal taste. Fancy syrup has the most delicate flavor, while medium and dark amber have a fuller maple flavor. Grade B has the most robust maple flavor- it is the favorite grade in our house!

Q: Is anything added to the maple syrup while it is being produced?
A: Nothing is added to pure maple syrup. During the process of boiling, lots of water is removed from the sap to condense it into thick, delicious maple syrup. During the packaging process, niter (also known as "sugar sand", which are the minerals naturally found in maple sap) is removed from the maple syrup using a series of paper filters.

Q: What has to be done the rest of the year for maple sugaring?
A: Immediately following sugaring, all of the sugaring equipment, buckets, and tubing must be washed and put away. In the summer and fall, fire wood must be cut and stacked, and the sugar woods must be maintained. In the winter, tubing must be checked and repaired from damage from moose and squirrels. In the early spring, trees are tapped, buckets are hung, and the season starts all over again!

Q: How do you know when the maple syrup is finished boiling?
A: Three instruments may be used to determine when maple syrup is ready to be "drawn off" the evaporator. A reading of "7" (7 degrees above the boiling point of water) on a Fahrenheit thermometer lets us know that syrup is ready, as well as use of a refractometer and hydrometer.

Q: How is the grade of syrup determined?
A: Each sugarmaker must use a set of color standards issued by the State of Vermont to determine the grade of maple syrup produced. Our maple syrup is placed in a small glass bottle, then compared to the Vermont color standard.

Q: Do I need to refrigerate my jug of syrup after I open it at home?
A: Yes, keep opened jugs of syrup in the fridge. Unopened jugs of syrup will keep well in a cool, dry place up to 2 years (but who could possibly wait that long to taste the delicious maple syrup inside!).

Q: Is your syrup organic?
A: At this point we are not yet certified organic, however you will find our production practices to be very natural and free of pesticides and chemicals. We will be pursuing organic certification in the near future.

Q: What can I do with maple syrup other than use it on pancakes?
A: Pure maple syrup has lots of wonderful uses! Some of our favorites are maple coffee, maple-lemon glazed salmon, maple milkshakes, maple marinated barbecued chicken, maple cotton candy, and many delicious baked goods made with maple syrup. There are several excellent cookbooks featuring Vermont cooks and bakers available in local stores. Maple syrup can also have a very gentle natural laxative effect on the digestive system of some people prone to constipation- a little pure maple syrup on your oatmeal every morning can keep things moving in the right direction, so to speak!

Q: When is the sugar house open for visitors and purchasing syrup?
A: Our sugarhouse is open for visitors each weekend during the sugaring season (early March to mid April). Look for the signs on Route 2 and our "Open" flag on the sugarhouse. Syrup is available for purchase during the sugaring season on weekends and weekday evenings. Syrup may also be available for purchase after sugaring season, if there is supply left (some years we are sold out of syrup by May 1st!).

Q: Can I place an order for a certain grade/size jug during sugaring?
A: Yes! Place your name on the order list, along with the size and grade you would like and your phone number and we'll call you when it's ready! Any orders not picked up by May 1st will be put back into inventory.


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