LEBANON, Ohio (WDTN) — Maple providers from New England to the Midwest are protesting labels for foods which do not contain genuine maple.
For 20 years, creating maple syrup has been a passion project for Dan Berger. He and his wife own Maple Grove Farm in Lebanon.
“We love everything about it,” said Berger. “I love everything about making maple.”
It is a love Berger says he will not replace with any substitutes.
“It’s becoming a much more popular food commodity,” said Berger. “I think if something doesn’t have maple in it, they shouldn’t call it maple.”
It is a feeling shared by other maple providers across the country.
In February, thirteen maple groups and providers from Vermont to Minnesota sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration arguing against foods labeled “maple” without containing the genuine article.
Authentic maple is described, by the same maple providers, as “a substance derived from the heat treatment of sap from the maple tree.”
In a letter to the FDA, the groups write:
“As maple syrup purveyors or producers, or parties otherwise invested in a healthy maple syrup marketplace, we have a particular interest in ensuring that products claiming to contain maple are properly labeled to prevent consumer confusion. Thus we request that FDA take enforcement actions to stop the misbranding of this class of products…”
The FDA said it is reviewing the letter from the maple providers. A response will be given directly to those petitioners in the future.
Getting maple from tree to table
On any given morning towards the end of winter, Berger will head out to his farm where he has 870 taps waiting to be collected.
“On a good day, we brought in about 800 gallons of sap,” said Berger. “That’s a normal day.”
Of that 800 gallons of sap, it may only produce about 20 gallons of actual syrup.
“We like a real cold spell so we can get our taps running so we’re not having to collect and tap at the same time,” said Berger.
Once the weather starts to get above freezing, the workers and volunteers at Maple Grove Farm will go around collecting the sap out of blue bags hanging from the tap.
From there, the sap is filtered into a tub to remove any foreign substances. The filtered sap then gets pumped into stainless steel tank before draining into a maple syrup evaporator, separating the water from the sugar.
Once the water is evaporated, the rest of the sap is moved between heated chambers until it reaches 219 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The way you make maple syrup is you just boil the water out of it until it gets to the right density of sugar.”
After that, the syrup is filtered two more times before it is bottled and sold to customers.
“I think if people had a taste of the real maple syrup, they wouldn’t want anything phony.”