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'We Call Ourselves Sugar Makers'

Kevin C. Brown
90.5 WESA
Matthew Emerick watches as maple sap drops into a collecting tank. Emerick and his family produce maple syrup by tapping some 5,000 trees in southeastern Somerset County.

When maple sap emerges from a tree, it’s a long way from its prized place at the breakfast table. Sap has a disappointing sugar content, just 1 or 2 percent, and doesn’t taste sweet. Syrup-making hinges on removing most of the water in the sap, traditionally by boiling.

But “in the last 20 years … the industry just went through enormous changes with technology,” says Matthew Emerick, a self-described “sugar maker” in southeastern Somerset County. Emerick now uses a vacuum system to coax sap from trees and through plastic tubing to a central collection point. Reverse osmosis removes some water from the sap before he begins boiling, which saves on energy costs.

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