It may be too early to think about a maple syrup season that’s still a few months away, but for producers of the sweet stuff now is the time to prepare for when the sap starts flowing.
To that end, the Waterloo-Wellington Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association (WWOMSPA) holds its annual maple syrup information day next Thursday at the Woolwich Community Centre in St. Jacobs.
The event will host producers from the region, who’ll gather to discuss ways to promote the industry and the newest trends in maple syrup technology, including sap production and sanitation of sap lines.
There’s a full agenda on tap this year.
There will be an update for producers on what is happening across the province and a discussion what government inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have found at a few spot checks in Ontario.
“These inspectors look at the whole operation of producing syrup from the trees making the sap to the transportation to the tanks and the hygiene all along the way to the finished product,” said Robert Richmond, secretary-treasurer of WWOMSPA.
The CFIA inspectors should be able to take a bottle of syrup and trace back exactly where the syrup came from, including the tree that produced the sap. Producers need to keep proper records just incase there is something wrong with the syrup.
“Everything must be coded properly that way if there is something wrong the producer only needs to throw away the one batch. If they don’t have them coded, they would have to throw out the whole works,” said Richmond.
The main emphasis this year will be the problem the industry is facing with mould growing in bottles; a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) will be discussing the best practices for producing maple syrup and keeping it free of bacteria and mould.
“If a producer doesn’t bottle or package the syrup properly mould can grow inside the bottle,” said Richmond. “This happens when the hot syrup is poured into a glass container. The syrup is heated to 185 F and when it is poured into the cool glass bottle a small amount of moisture can form in the bottle and that water eventually turns into mould.”
Maple syrup should be packed hot, especially for long-term storage, and producers must take better care while packing as to avoid a possible mould problem, said Richmond.
Fred Martin, WWOMSPA’s president, will be discussing the benefits of packing hot syrup versus cold syrup, as not all producers are packing hot syrup.
“This is very important for our industry; once you hot package the product in the proper containers the storage life is much longer, which allows the general public to keep the product longer as long as it is kept in a cool area,” said Martin.
Some producers are buying lesser-quality containers, trying to save money and passing that savings on to the consumer, but the product does not last very long in the plastic jugs and these jugs can not be hot packed because they are not designed to withstand any kind of extreme heat, said Martin.
“This is about food safety for the general consumer and we should not being allowing the safety of the food to be put in jeopardy, he said, adding hot packing does cost more and the consumer does pay more for that product but it also has a longer shelf life in their cabinets and refrigerator.
The white plastic syrup containers need to be refrigerated immediately because the containers are quite porous and cannot withstand sitting on a shelf in the kitchen.
“The talk is a reminder for our own producers to step up to the plate and make sure they are sending out a topnotch product in a high quality container,” said Martin.