4/24/2014 3:46:00 PM Syrup making effort enjoying excellent, but rushed, season
The cooker is stoked with firewood, which the church youth also split into useable chunks from oak logs delivered to the shack.
by DENISE MARTIN
A slew of youngsters who had Monday off this week, the tail end of the Easter break in the Chisago Lakes School District, weren’t lazing about in the sunshine or stuck inside video gaming.... this group was hard at work in Taylors Falls making maple syrup. The syrup flow really took off after last week’s late spring blizzard, “The trees just opened up,” syrupmaster Don Hansen said. He was very thankful on Monday to have lots of help when the Press stopped by. The youth are affiliated with FLY or the First Lutheran Youth group. These teens have been collecting and bottling their own syrup with Hansen’s expert guidance and equipment since 2001.
The proceeds go into an Endowment that assists with expenses for youth at the church to attend camp or go on retreats, etc. In 2010 the syruping program brought in $15,000 in sales. Approximately 30 kids and 20 adults will be involved in this tradition of collecting sap from 1,800 to 2,000 taps in west Wisconsin and Chisago County, including tress on the Hazelden campus. They also split the 20 cords of wood used in the cooker. The sap arrives at Hansen’s outbuilding in huge plastic vats on the beds of pickup trucks. It gets directed by hose into huge steel tanks where it’s held until it can be cooked and filtered inside the “sugar shack.” The big news this year is that Don and his wife Sydney Paredes have earned state certification for the operation based on their property in Taylors Falls. The outbuilding housing the enclosed stainless steel cooker needed to be upgraded with commercial grade sinks and new wall and ceiling coverings.
It was worth it, Hansen explains, because licensing affords the product a little more credilbility. The syrup can even be sold commercially if need be, with the certification in place, he added. The state inspectors have been great to work with and the certification couldn’t have come at a better time. The FLY group bottled 6,500 gallons at Don’s place just in recent days, he said. This week marks the last of the cook, and the steam rising from the shack rooftop will waft away and disappear until next spring, when they’ll do this all over again. Look for FLY members selling their syrup at Taylors Falls civic events, or contact the church for an order 651-465-5265 and there’s a link if you’d like to purchase on-line, at www.tflutheran.org. Product is available year-round in sizes from eight ounces $6 to half-a-gallon for $30.