Jakeman's Maple Farm
100% Canadian Maple Syrup
by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz
Mar 16, 2008: I had to work today, Sunday, at the Toyota Plant, but we got done at 1:30 so I decided to drive back to Woodstock, get my camera and go out and find a "Maple Sugar Bush", which is the local name for a grove of maple trees being used for sap collection in the manufacture of Maple Syrup. The guys in the Press area of the Toyota plant were talking this up and letting me know that there is nothing like real maple syrup and pancakes. So, off I went. I first tried to find one near Woodstock, but the folks I asked knew nothing of any of these nearby so I remembered that Allison, from the Oxford County Tourism desk at the Quality Inn in Woodstock, had told me about Jakeman's, so I headed back to Woodstock and then on towards Sweaburg, ON to find Jakeman's.
For those wanting to find it easily, the best thing to do is to take Canada's 401 highway heading west towards London from Woodstock, or east towards Woodstock from London. You would take exit 230 and go south through the small town of Sweaburg to a road called Trillium Line. Turn right onto the dirt road and head up the hill. The shop will be up on the right.
The Jakeman's Shop
As I approached, there was a tractor coming up the road with a big barrel on its front. A couple of guys were pouring buckets into this barrel. I asked them about the store and mentioned that I was from Kentucky and hoped to get some real maple syrup to take back with me later this week. They apologized an mentioned that the store was closed, but Bob Jakeman, the owner, and great grandson of George Jakeman, the founder, called his wife Mary and they graciously opened up for me to go up and get some syrup and learn more about the place. I was very grateful to meet such accommodating folk.
Mary and Bob Jakeman, as warm as the picture shows
Bob and Mary are fourth generation Maple Syrup farmers. As their history states in their brochure, Bob's great grandfather George and his wife Betsy Anne Jakeman came from Oxfordshire, England to Oxford County in Ontario. They were taught the maple syrup making technique by local native Canadians. Back then they collected the sap and boiled it down in an iron kettle over an open wood fire until it was golden brown. The family business has grown throughout the years and now the Jakeman name is known all over Canada and throughout the world. They have over 1000 taps.
The shop is housed in an old rustic building. Originally built in 1855, it used to be the Sweaburg General Store and post office in Sweaburg. In 1976 the Jakeman's moved the entire building to its present location. Inside is a maple gift shop, a small museum and a pancake house (much different than a IHOP!!). My first thought as I entered was WOW, look at all of the different products made from maple syrup...cookies, candies, wine, snacks, etc. Of course, they had a great variety of 100% Maple Syrup, which is drawn from trees on site, boiled on site and bottled there as well. You can see a good variety of their products (and order them as well) at their website: www.themaplestore.com. Unbeknownst to me, their #1 Medium Maple syrup was named the best tasting in Canada among 8 national brands by the National Post newspaper in 2004.
The best tasting Maple syrup in Canada!!
The process begins in a "Maple Sugar Bush", which is a stand of Maple trees, typically Sugar Maple or Black Maple trees. The maples are tapped for their maple sap in early spring, whenever the weather has warmed so that day-time temperatures are above freezing — 0 °C (32 °F) — while night-time temperatures remain below freezing. Typically there will be snow cover on the ground during the tapping period. The tapping period ends when the supply of maple sap ceases, as when night-time temperatures begin to be above freezing. After the tapping period, some maple sugar bushes experience a profusion of spring wildflowers which take advantage of unobstructed sunlight before the maple leaves emerge.
Trees are tapped and hoses run to a main line which goes to the sugar shanty
Freezing nights and warm days are needed in order to induce sap flows. The change in temperature from above to below freezing causes water uptake from the soil, and temperatures above freezing cause a stem pressure to develop, which, along with gravity, causes sap to flow out of tapholes or other wounds in the stem or branches. To collect the sap, holes are bored into the maple trees and tubes (taps, spouts, spiles) are inserted. Sap flows through the spouts into buckets or into plastic tubing. Modern use of plastic tubing with a partial vacuum has enabled increased production. A hole must be drilled in a new location each year, as the old hole will produce sap for only one season due to the natural healing process of the tree, called walling-off. Maple sap is collected from the buckets and taken to the sugar shanty; if plastic tubing and pipelines are used, then the pipelines are arranged so that the sap will flow by gravity into the sugar house, or if that is not possible, into holding tanks from which the sap is pumped or transported by tanker truck to the sugar shanty.
I arrived at just the right time to see the sap collection process. There were trees all around that had been tapped. Some had buckets attached and others were connected by plastic hose. The collection of the sap then moves on to the Sugar Shanty, as they are called here. This is where the sap is boiled down into syrup.
Some trees are tapped and the sap drips into buckets. The sap is then collected from the buckets.
On the side of the Jackman's store is their Sugar Shanty. As I approached closer, the aroma of maple syrup was wafting through the air. It was a sweet, wonderfully mouth-watering smell. I peeked into the "Do Not Enter Without Authorization" door for a quick peek and the smell inside was amazing. They were boiling the syrup in a natural gas fired steam evaporator and had a number of barrels around the place. Led Zeppelin was blasting from the stereo adding a certain aural note to the aroma.
The Sugar Shanty...boiling into syrup. The lines fed downhill into this small sugar shanty across the road.
The syrup business is big business in Canada. The country produces more than 80% of the world's maple syrup and Quebec is by far the largest producer in Canada. However, Ontario is also blessed with a large number of syrup producers.
I appreciated the kindness of the Jakeman's for taking time to talk with me. They do offer tours and other activities throughout the year. Arrangements can be made by contacting Mary at email@example.com. I can't wait to sit down with the family in Kentucky this coming Saturday morning to a meal of pancakes with real 100% Maple Syrup...something none of has ever done.
Mar 22, 2008: I came back home to Kentucky for the Good Friday and Easter holidays. Today we had family over and we all enjoyed a nice brunch with a breakfast casserole, fresh fruit, hash browns and waffles with Jakeman's 100% Maple Syrup. We all knoew the maple flavor, but none of us had experienced the smooth and sweet taste of the real stuff. Everyone raved....and here is proof of us using it here in Kentucky on this day before Easter 2008...
My wife Julianne and daughters Marissa and Chelsea pour the sweet stuff on their waffles
Good with whipped cream and fruit or just with butter on the waffles
Mar 29, 2008: Today I brought along 13 Japanese counterparts from Toyota and we enjoyed a pancake breakfast and a tour of the facility with Bob Jakeman. See more about our visit on my South Ontario page. Here are a few photos from our visit:
Bob Jakeman explains the process of tapping the tree. One of the sugar shacks.
Fact: It takes about 40 liters of Maple sap to make 1 liter of Maple Syrup.
Fact: They don't start boiling it down until they get at least 500 liters of sap.
Fact: A tree is tapped once a year in a different place each year. The trees have scars from previous years.
Fact: The sugar bush is self-generating. They do not plant the trees. Rather, the trees seed the ground and grow.
Fact: The Jakeman's Maple Bush has about 1000 trees that are tapped. They contract with many others in the area as well.
Pancake Breakfast at Jakeman's
Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM to 1 PM in March
Enjoying pancakes, sausage and Jakeman's Maple Syrup
During the month of March annually, the Jakeman's offer pancake breakfasts and small tours of their facility. The pancake breakfast is a fundraiser for the local 4H Club and all of the members are there to make pancakes, take orders and serve. There is room in the Jakeman's store for about 35 people.
The Jakeman's offer syrup and syrup products. And the customers go wild!
The Toyota gang with Bob Jakeman
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