Prince Edward Island has such a wide range of local food produce ranging from potatoes to lobster and from honey to wine we thought it would be interesting to find out more about where the food comes from. In this blog we describe our visit to a local maple syrup producer.
The majority of the world's maple syrup is produced in Canada. Over three quarters of the world output comes from Quebec. The largest production area in the US is Vermont with around 5% of world production. The quantities from PEI are small but the production methods are very similar.
Woodlands have a sugar shack in the woods in Woodville Mills, near Cardigan, PEI. We visited them on what proved to be the warmest March day in history. As a result the amount of sap flowing was only small but they could still produce maple syrup.
The process begins by tapping a tree with a spile that allows the sap to drip into the bucket. Larger production regions have long runs of piping to connect the tapping points and collect the sap but due to the small quantities and the lack of a slope to allow the sap to flow downhill this location uses a series of collection buckets fitted to the trees.
The sap tastes like water with a slight sweetness but it takes a lot of sap to make syrup. For every 40 litres of sap collected, once the water has been evaporated there only remains 1 litre of syrup. The buckets are fitted to every tapping point with lids to prevent insects from falling into the sap. Insects love anything sweet.
Once the sap has been collected and filtered it is fed into a large evaporator that was manufactured in Quebec. This is where the magic begins.
The sap is heated in the evaporator and during the process passes through numerous stages where the water is gradually evaporated off and the syrup is concentrated.
The evaporator is heated by burning wood from the forest which means the process is not only efficient but sustainable. And there is no shortage of wood .....
Finally the syrup is checked for quality and then bottled for sale. The maple syrup is so popular that they manage to sell all their produce locally rather than relying on retail sales.
And how do you find them? Drive out from Cardigan on route 311 to Woodville Mills and look for the sign!