60 West Hawley Road, Hawley, MA 01339 - (413) 339-4313 - ellen@chickley.com

Making Maple Syrup at Chickley Alp Farm


We love living in New England where we are blessed to be surrounded by maple trees. We invite you to read about the process that we use to make our pure maple syrup from start to finish.

Tapping the Tree

Our family taps only sugar maple trees, also called acer saccharum or hard or rock maple. A hole is drilled into the tree and a metal or plastic spigot is hammered into the hole to let the sap run out. The sap runs through this tap and into either a bucket or pipeline. We hang about 200 buckets with metal covers to keep out rain and snow. And around 800 plastic taps that are attached to plastic pipeline. Plastic pipeline is invaluable where the terrain is either very steep or difficult to navigate.

Tree with Syrup Buckets - How to Make Maple Syrup

Gathering the Sap

The pipelines run into large holding tanks and can be easily transported to the sugarhouse. The buckets have to be collected by hand. We use five gallon buckets and walk from tree to tree, emptying the metal buckets into them, until they are full of sap. Then we lug the five gallon pails to a holding tank.  All of the sap that we collect is placed in a large storage tank at the sugarhouse that we affectionately call the “Green Monster”. The sap, at this point, is clear and almost tasteless, as the sugar content is very low. Approximately forty gallons of sap is needed to make one gallon of syrup.

Sugarhouse at Night - How to Make Maple Syrup

The Sugarhouse

We pump the sap from the Green Monster into a metal holding tank beside the sugarhouse.  It is then gravity-fed into our stainless-steel evaporator pans to create a steady stream of sap that is regulated by a float valve. The wood fire is built in our cast-iron arch to boil the sap. As the sap slowly boils, the excess water evaporates as it flows to the front pans. This slow passage, through the pans, is how we create our liquid gold. A hydrometer measures liquid density to determine when the sap becomes maple syrup.

Sugarhouse - Inside View

Canning and Storage

Maple syrup is drawn from the arch and placed in a finishing pan. The finishing pan is then brought to a boil. The syrup density is tested once again with a hydrometer for quality control. The maple syrup is then run through a filter press to remove any impurities. The syrup is placed into 30 gallon drums. We have a separate room where we take the syrup from the 30 gallon drums and put it in the jugs that we sell. Maple syrup can be stored unopened, in its original plastic container for up to a year. Best if it is stored away from sunlight. Once the maple syrup has been opened, it must be refrigerated. Our liquid gold is available for purchase in a variety of sizes and grades.

Sugarhouse- Canning and Storage

100% Pure Maple Syrup

Whether you are looking for a unique gift or buying for yourself, we have what you need at Chickley Alp Farm of Hawley, Massachusetts. We create pure, rich maple syrup that brings a warm cozy feeling for which New England maple syrup is famous.


Maple Syrup Grades

What makes the grades different?

Pure maple syrup is graded according to Federal USDA regulations, and is based on both color and flavor. All syrup available to the public is Grade A, and then further classified by color.

Characteristics of each grade

Golden Color, Delicate Taste. This light syrup has the mildest maple flavor and is usually made early in the season.

Amber Color, Rich Taste. Still light in color, this syrup has a more full-bodied maple flavor.

Dark, Robust Taste. This syrup is for those who prefer a substantially stronger maple flavor.

Very Dark, Strong Taste. This bold flavored syrup is ideal for cooking and baking, and is made late in the season.


Which Grade is better?

All maple syrup grades are better than the artificial stuff. Otherwise it's strictly a matter of personal choice. Ask yourself (or someone else) these questions: Which is better, white wine or red wine? Which is better, light beer or dark beer? Beer can probably be compared most easily to the different maple syrup grades/flavors. A light Pilsner beer has a light color and delicate flavor, while a Stout or Porter has a very dark color and strong flavor. It's strictly a matter of personal choice, and there isn't one grade of maple syrup that is "better" than another.

What makes the different grades?

Maple producers have no control over which grade they make. As a rule of thumb, lighter syrup is made earlier in the season, and darker syrup is made later. But since we are dealing with Mother Nature in our business, anything can happen. Producers have seen years where 95% of the annual crop was light amber syrup, and some years yield almost no light syrup at all, when most of the crop is dark syrup. During the six-week maple production season, the weather goes from cold to warm as spring pushes aside the cold of winter. Additionally, the trees themselves undergo metabolic and chemical changes as they go from winter dormancy to springtime activity. The tree buds start to form towards the end of the sugaring season, about a month before they open up into small leaves. These changes cause differences in maple syrup flavor as the season progresses. Experiment with the different grades, and continue to buy what you like the best. Remember: There is nothing better than pure maple syrup.

*** Grading information from Massachusetts Maple Producers www.massmaple.org

Using Maple Syrup


Substitute maple syrup for granulated sugar in a recipe

1. ¼ cup maple syrup for granulated sugar

2. Decrease liquids by 2-4 tablespoons for each cup of syrup

3. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Unless the recipe already calls for sour cream, sour milk or buttermilk.

Our syrup has no additives or preservatives and is available for purchase in a variety of sizes and grades. The deep rich flavor of maple syrup can be used in any number of recipes. Granola, baked beans, breads, pies, marinades, glazes, and vinaigrettes. Or just drizzle it over vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert.


Storing Maple Syrup

You can store maple syrup in its original container for up to a year. Keep it in a cool, dark area, away from sunlight. Once opened, the jug must be refrigerated or frozen. Maple syrup can be frozen and thawed multiple times. Make sure to fully thaw and then stir the syrup before use. Sugar crystals can form inside the container. Either eat the crystals as rock candy or heat the syrup and crystals together and stir.