Tucked away among the rolling maple hills of Vermont sits Hidden Springs Maple. Peter Cooper-Ellis has been in the maple-making business for more than 50 years. His love for making maple syrup started as a young boy with his brother, Fraser, then under the name Cooper-Ellis Sugar Makers. Today, Peter runs CE Maple LLC with his brother as well as Hidden Springs Maple. One of the many things I took from Hidden Springs Maple is that it truly is a family-run business with a lot of the family helping out during sugar season. I love how Peter has brought his family together with a shared love of maple syrup, much like I try to bring people together at the table for a nice meal. It really brings home the Farm2ChefsTable vibe.
While visiting and learning about Hidden Springs Maple, you come to realize that maple syrup is both a food of love and a labor of love. In sugar season, Hidden Spring Maple taps over 30,000 wild-sugar maple trees on roughly 1,000 acres of sugar bush (maple tree forest) on Bemis Hill. Peter is known for using sugar maple trees instead of red or black maple trees because they produce sweeter, higher-quality maple syrup. Peter and his team spend up to two plus weeks getting the lines tapped, primed for the moment when the sap begins flowing from the trees. You need the right combination of freezing nights and warmer days to get the juices flowing through the lines. Each tree produces up to five gallons of sap per day when the temperature is just right. Peter likes to begin the sugar season in late February and usually ends in April. Throughout the sugar season, different grades of maple syrup, from golden to amber to dark, are produced. Grading is dependent on the time of the season that the trees are tapped. The difference between them is that the invert sugars toward the season’s end cause darker sap with more impurities.
From Sap to Maple Syrup
It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. And if you do the math, with five gallons of sap being tapped from each tree per day, it will take eight days for a single tree to make one gallon of delicious Hidden Springs Maple Syrup. Maple sap is evaporated at a precise temperature of 219F degrees. Peter uses an evaporator that is 5 feet wide by 18 feet long to make his maple syrup. Once the syrup is evaporated, it is stored in metal barrels and ready to go to packaging.
However, there is one last step to guarantee Hidden Springs Maple is consistent every time you enjoy it. Blending. How does Peter guarantee quality? He and fellow employee Larry have been blending maple syrup for years and have it down to a science. This ensures the color, clarity, density and flavor are perfect before bottling.
The maple syrup is first heated to 180F degrees, filtered and then bottled by hand. Hidden Springs hand bottles more than 20,000 maple jugs each year.
Maple Syrup Grading
Golden Maple Syrup
Peter was generous enough to walk me through the different gradings of maple syrup. Golden is the lightest in color and most delicate in flavor. Hidden Springs’ golden syrup has notes of vanilla and a nice freshness that is characteristic of young maple sap.
Amber Maple Syrup
Amber maple syrup is fuller bodied with a nice roundness, amber color and flavors of roasted vanilla and brown butter with notes of caramel on the nose.
Dark Maple Syrup
This is my favorite. This one has the strongest maple flavor. It reminds me of bruléed sugar and toasted marshmallow with a slightly malty, molasses taste while still retaining the characteristic maple flavor we all love.
Very Dark Maple Syrup
This is the rarest maple syrup grading. It’s often known as “cooking maple” because of the depth of flavor and color. It packs a punch that hold up well for baking maple cakes.
It was great getting to know Peter from Hidden Springs Maple. Let’s get cooking with his maple syrup!
To enjoy Hidden Springs Maple Syrup, visit them at their website Hidden Springs Maple.