Day 5: March 19, 2011
Sap & Syrup Everywhere
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Over this weekend and last, forty different sites have been part of the Ohio Maple Producers Association's 2011 Maple Madness Drive-It-Yourself Tour. Not all of them were there every day. Some participated on only one weekend or maybe just Saturdays or just Sundays. All of Ohio is represented but the biggest concentration is in the northeast corner. Richards Maple Products is one of the tour's "hub" stops and is where I headed first. I picked up a tour map and got my first look at a real sugar house. The sugar house is in the background of the second picture. The structure in the foreground is a pump house. At the right of the picture is just a hint of the network of tubing through which sap moves from the tapped trees through the pump house and onto the sugar house. That's Richards family member Jen firing things up in the sugar house to boil the sap down to syrup. The last picture shows a display that sits on a shelf inside the store. The six syrups have an average maple content of 17%. One is above average.

I headed to a couple of sites that the tour guide called "backyard operations". Both have evaporators with the same capacity, about a hundred gallons an hour, as the unit at Richards but they are essentially one man operations. The first two pictures are from Salo Maple Products. I screwed up here by not getting a picture of owner Tom Salo. I was Tom's first tour visitor -- ever. Last weekend Tom worked as a volunteer at the Geauga Park District operation as he has in previous years but he took this weekend to show off his own setup. It may be a "backyard operations" but it's a backyard with 500 tapped trees.

K-C Maple Syrup is just a round the corner from Salo. The name comes from the owners', Karen & Carl DeFilippos, initials. The last two pictures show the recently completed pump house. Carl explained that, "The holding tank looks like a beer barrel because it is a beer barrel."

When Tom Salo talked about the park where he worked last week, he also mentioned a nearby Amish operation that offered breakfast. Heading that way seemed like a good idea. The second picture shows sap boiling in an open kettle. The operation has a modern evaporator so the kettle was likely fired up for the Maple Madness Tour. Breakfast is available in the lower floor of a close by house. Of course I have no photos of the Amish cooks but, when I explained that I'd like to take a pictures of just the buffet table, the ladies hurried to uncover the food so I could get a better shot. Good food with a pitcher of good maple syrup on each table.

This is the park operation where Tom Salo was last week. The big 200 gallon per hour evaporator can produce a lot of steam. Outside is an exhibit on the history of syrup making. It starts with "The Age of Stone", when heated stones were dropped into collected sap to boil it, and ends with "The Age of Plastic" with mass produced taps and tubing.

This seemed like a good time to visit Ohio's oldest general store just a few miles away. The End of the Commons General Store dates to 1840. There are plenty of tourist touches like the "World's Largest Horse and Buggy" across the street and the memorabilia embedded in dining area tables. But it is very much a living and working store heavily patronized by the locals. The local population is largely Amish and there is a buggies only parking lot across the street. There are legitimate hardware and grocery sections. There's a decent selection of cookie cutters and spices can be seen before they're purchased. Even the gas station next door gets local customers. Many Amish use some powered equipment on their farms and I watched several men and one women carrying empty gas cans to the station while I sipped my root beer on the porch.

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