Talk Of The Town

maplesyrupLeroy Toennies, LEFT, and Jitty Winkeler, at their "Sugar Shack" in the Santa Fe Bottoms on Feb. 24, getting ready to clean up after cooking some maple syrup. They would next check one of the taps and a bucket collecting raw sap from one of the silver maple trees they work with. (Photo by Bryan Hunt)    Through woods in the Santa Fe Bottoms of Bartelso, you can smell that Leroy Toennies and Jitty Winkeler have a handle on the craft of creating maple syrup.
    The duo shared their enthusiasm for getting jars of caramel goodness from so much labor and time on a sunny Feb. 24 afternoon.
    The adventure began with a brisk ride to the "Sugar Shack," where they cook down days of collected sap to jars-full of the sticky, sweet syrup, that's as natural as you can get.
    Toennies, piloting his side-by-side, made the trip with a  reporter, going from gravel roads to dirt levee, to water-logged paths.
    Watch out for the face-slappers, Toennies warned, talking about the branches along the trail, as we sloshed our way toward the Winkelers' riverside clubhouse, where the magic is made.

Pick your tree
    Maple syrup is a food product and should be produced only with equipment and materials that are approved for food application.
    The basic process involves removing water from the raw sap to form the finished product.
    Several species of maples can be tapped for maple syrup production, but sugar maples are the traditional species.
    Red maples can be used, but their sap is less sweet. The black maple yields sap similar in quality to the sugar maple, according to the Penn State Extension.

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