SOUTHINGTON — It’s a long process before Karabin Farms’ maple syrup gets poured on a stack of pancakes, from the trees, to the maple syrup shed, to the store where the syrup is bottled and sold.
“Maple syrup production varies from year to year,” said Michael Karabin, who owns the farm with his wife Diane. “I’ve been doing this for over 60 years, since I was a kid.”
This year, the process started in February, about a month earlier than most years.
“This year has been an excellent year for maple syrup,” Michael Karabin said of the cold nights and milder days.
About 650 trees on his property and at Camp Sloper are tapped for sap. Michael Karabin said the taps this year are smaller and less invasive to the trees.
“All the trees with the buckets under them are all tapped,” said Melissa Johnson, a longtime farm helper and Berlin resident. “They generally have two taps in them that run out into one bucket.”
Johnson collects the sap and dumps it into a collection tank before bringing it to the production building. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. The farm collects about 1,000 gallons of sap a day, Michael Karabin said.
The farm began a more elaborate production system in 2008. Sap is fed through a pump, then through the evaporator until it is brought up to temperature.
The syrup is then poured into a small device that measures the thickness and determines whether it is ready to draw. After it’s filtered, the syrup is reheated until it reaches over 200 degrees and is able to be bottled.
“It’s been fun this year because we’ve had some snowfall and my grandkids have been in and we give them a cup of good clean snow, bring it in here and draw some hot syrup on it,” Michael Karabin said. “They get a flavor of what real maple syrup tastes like.”
At the start of the season the syrup is light, before progressing to a richer “Grade A Amber,” followed by the current, more robust, darker color, and then a strong Grade A dark syrup at the end of the season.
“If we have material to boil I’ll be in here boiling,” Michael Karabin said of weekends the farm store is open. “Anyone is welcome to come in and see the operation.”
The store will open for the season next month.