Keeping up with the Joneses means tapping some maple sap for syrup
The Joneses prove that the family that makes maple syrup together sticks together, and then some.
The family of eight soon could bring to local markets their private label maple syrup made at their Washington Township home.
For Ryan Jones, growing up in New Hampshire, everyone knows someone who produces maple syrup. He initially didn’t think much of the outdoor amenities of Southwestern Pennsylvania after he moved here with his wife from Butler a decade ago.
But Jones has since changed his mind.
The maple syrup might have something to do with it.
Of course, he had to give the Pennsylvania red maples on his 28 acres in Washington Township a spin, tapping them with help from his children, and has been pleased with the results ever since.
“It’s the best maple syrup,” Jones said unequivocally. He attributes it to something in the soil.
Jason Blocher, a director of the Somerset County Maple Syrup Producers Association, agrees.
Owner of Milroy Farms in Salisbury, Somerset County, which sells its maple syrup around the world, Blocher admits he is inclined to say Pennsylvania maple syrup is the best.
“Syrup is like wine,” he said. “It has different nuances and flavor trends depending on weather conditions and mineral conditions in the soil,” Blocher said.
One expert theorized that the rich flavor of Pennsylvania syrups might have something to do with coal country because of the influence of minerals present in the soil where coal is found, according to Blocher.
Whatever the reason, consumers like it.
The state ranks fifth in the nation for maple syrup production, according to the National Agricultural Statistical Service.
For Jones, he plans to augment the flavor of his already robust maple syrup with aged bourbon barrels. His production will stay at a level where his business, Jones Maple Farm, will be a small producer.
Washington Township Supervisors approved Jones’ syrup operation last week. All he needs now is approval from the Westmoreland County Conservation District and the Washington Township Uniform Construction Code representatives, which he expects within the month.
The Joneses plan to sell at farmers markets and other local outlets.
The production of tapping about 500 trees will continue what has become a family tradition during the doldrums of winter in February through March.
Jones’ fulltime job, heading up his surveying company, has him boiling off sap into the night.
“The kids like it — they get to stay up late,” he said.
Over the last several years, Jones installed tap lines, using gravity flow for the sap to make its way to a “sugar shack” with a stove and appliances to heat and reduce the syrup.
It’s essential to have equipment to speed up reduction as Jones will typically collect between 200 to 250 gallons of sap on a good day, which will yield two gallons of syrup.
During the day, the Jones children watch the large containers in the sugar shack fill up with sap from the tap lines, according to Jones’ wife, Liz.
“All the kids get excited for dad to get home from work and for him to start boiling,” she said.
For both parents, the experience not only keeps the kids busy, but it’s an opportunity for them to learn.
“For us, it’s a rhythm of life,” Jones said.
Previously, the Joneses were producing about 13 to 23 gallons of maple syrup. Now, with their new business, they hope to make 50 to 75 gallons.
Freelance writer George Guido contributed to this report. Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, email@example.com
or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .