Cincy Obscura: Behind the Steam at Maple Grove Farm

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Photography By Ryan Kurtz

Bitter nights that thaw come daytime: That’s the kind of weather that causes sap to rise. But if you make maple syrup, you have no control over it. “All you can do is be ready,” says Dan Berger of Maple Grove Farm in Lebanon. Berger’s sugarhouse is a former corncrib fitted with a wood-fired evaporator that processes the sap (40 gallons of it to make one gallon of syrup) collected by hand from hundreds of taps. The watery fluid roils through a series of channels in the evaporator pan, throwing off moisture until it condenses down to thick, golden sweetness. Then the syrup is drawn off and checked for sugar content using a Brix hydrometer, just like a fine wine. Like winemaking, maple syrup production is labor-intensive, expensive, and subject to the annual whims of Mother Nature. But, Berger says, the experience in the sugarhouse is worth it. “The flames are roaring, there’s steam, you smell the sugar,” he says. “It’s a blast.”

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Photography By Ryan Kurtz

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Photography By Ryan Kurtz

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Photography By Ryan Kurtz

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