Sugar Tree Country Store Story In McDowell, Offers Maple Treats In A Location That’ll Remind You Of Times Gone Past
McDowell, Va – This is the 7th Maple Syrup season for Glen Heatwole of Sugar Tree Country Store in McDowell. Heatwole along with family and friends produce their maple syrup and sell in their store. He explains the process of how they create their syrup.
“We start in the woods, which starts very early in the year” says Heatwole. “In January, when we go out and check lines, fix lines, repair and lay out lines to get everything ready for the season. Then we wash our tanks and get everything ready. And then when the time is right, temperature wise, we tap those trees; which this year was February 3rd & 4th and 7th & 8th.”
This year they tapped approximately 3500 trees. Sugar water will run out of the trees and that is used to create syrup. This year, the water did not run as well as it has in previous years.
“But it all goes gravity into collection tanks and then we go around” says Heatwole. “We have a 40 mile trip to go around Monterey, Halterman Hollow, Blue Grass Valley, to collect that water that is in storage tanks and then we bring it to McDowell to our sugar house to evaporate.”
After the water is returned to the sugar house then there is more work to be done to create the final product.
“First of all, run it through a reverse osmosis which takes three fourths of the water which makes the evaporation process so much shorter” he says. “It doesn’t take as long to make a gallon of syrup as it would if you would take the raw water, because it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sugar water to make one gallon of syrup. Then we evaporate and after it goes through the evaporation process and we get it to the specific gravity of syrup, then we run it through a filter press which cleans all your sugar sand. Then we grade it-light, medium, dark, or Grade B, and bottle it.”
The 2011 syrup season has been some better than the 2010 season.
“Compared to last year – last year was about a third of normal” he says. “This year we are about half. We’re hoping to still get more but we’re already making Grade B. We’ve been making Grade B which is what you make from sap at the end of the season when your trees are starting to bud. We have been making Grade B for almost a week now.”
The Heatwole’s sugar season typically runs for 6 weeks. As of March 8th, the Heatwole’s had made 460 gallons of maple syrup, which is lower than previous years. Along with maple syrup, the Heatwole’s will be featuring other products made with their maple syrup.
“Well we take that maple syrup and we make maple candy which is just maple syrup’ says Heatwole. “We also make maple cream which is like a maple butter. We cover peanuts, almonds, pecans, and English walnuts with maple syrup which is crystallized on those raw nuts. We make maple fudge and we also make granulated maple sugar.”
In addition, they will be making maple donuts that will feature Grade B in the glaze. Sugar Tree Country Store will be open on the Maple Festival Saturdays at 8am and will not close till 7 or 8 pm if there are still visitors. They are located beside the Highland County Museum in McDowell.