A Taste of Nature

Mountain Maple Products has been producing syrup for over 50 years.

St. Joseph Island—40 km east of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and at the western part of Lake Huron's North Channel—is well known for its maple trees and maple syrup. With over 30 maple syrup operations and tens of thousands of trees tapped, the island is a wellspring of sweet liquid gold, which is one of the main economic drivers of the region.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of those operators just as they were gearing up for the 2018 season. They are known for quality products and superior customer service—there are dedicated family members who make Mountain Maple Products one of the oldest maple syrup producers on the island. It’s a business very much dependent on Mother Nature and hard work, shared by Don Manchur, his wife Sue, daughters Yvonne and Aimee, and son-in-law, Bob.

The Chesley Wallace family established Mountain Maple Products in 1964, with 300 trees tapped by 1965. Don Manchur became a working partner in 1986 and today the Manchur family is operating and growing the business. This year over 7,200 trees have been tapped with plans for expansion. Touting old technology and modern equipment—a brand new evaporator was purchased in 2017—perfect soils for growing healthy hard maple trees, and clean air, it’s the right mix for producing natural organic maple products.

manchur family
The family from right, Don, Sue, Yvonne, Aimee, and Bob​. Photo credit: Greg Cull

Don and his daughters guided me through the process where it starts, with the trees. The trees are tapped each season, where the blue sap lines are connected to black lines which are connected to pumps where the sap is vacuumed out to holding tanks. The lines depend on both gravity and electric pumps because the terrain is not level in the sugar bush. Some of the trees are below the tanks, so there are 3 pumps used throughout the bush to move the sap uphill.

sap lines for maple syrup
Sugarbush shows blue sap lines and black vacuum lines. Photo credit: Greg Cull

From the holding tanks, the sap is put through a reverse osmosis system, where it extracts 70% of the water, which cuts down on the boiling time. The water extracted is later used for washing. The sap then goes to the evaporator, where the sap is boiled down to syrup.

Different grades of syrup are produced from light to amber, depending on when the sap comes in, with lighter syrup at the beginning of the season and darker syrup produced near the end of the season. From the evaporator, the syrup runs through a filter press and removes any sand and debris that may remain. From there it goes to the canner, where the temperature is raised to 180 degrees before the syrup is put into containers.

maple syrup processing
Reverse osmosis system​​​. Photo credit: Greg Cull

It’s a process that is carefully planned out each year to maximize efficiency and sometimes Mother Nature decides to throw in her own challenges, such as when a major wind storm in June 2017, knocked down many trees on their 100-acre bush, which needed to be cleaned up before the lines can be installed or re-installed.

mountain maple products map
Drawing of the sugar bush with lines and pumps. Photo credit: Greg Cull

The syrup is just one product produced, Mountain Maple also makes maple candy, maple butter, maple sugar, as well as BBQ sauce and salsa made from their own home-grown pesticide-free tomatoes.

mountain maple products booth at mill market
Vendor stall at Mill Market. Photo credit: Mountain Maple Products

Their products are sold throughout the region as well as served in area restaurants. Through connections made at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and online, they have customers in Southern Ontario, Western Canada, the U.S., and Europe. In fact, they know that their products have reached worldwide customers, through purchases made by people who then send them on to family and friends. They love to introduce their maple products to people from other countries who have never tried it before. One story involved a gentleman they met at the Royal from a country in Africa. He purchased a small sample and loved it so much that he wanted to bring it back to his village, so everyone could get a taste of Canada.

Mountain Maple Products are one of the few area producers with a C.F.I.A. (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) inspected designation, this enables them to export their products outside of Canada.

I asked about their future plans for the business and they mentioned that their plan is to expand to 10,000 taps and offer snowshoe tours of their operation. Mountain Maple will accommodate small group tours but asks that you please call first.

wood statue
Photo credit: Greg Cull

It's obvious when talking with them that the Manchur family has tremendous pride in their work. They love what they do, and it shows. They’re more than happy to talk with people who stop by their operation on the island or at a farmers’ market or fair where they’re set up.

Mountain Maple Products

1300 P Line, Richards Landing St. Joseph Island, Ontario 
PH: (705) 246-7800 
Web: mountainmapleproducts.ca - Find a list of where products are sold or shop online 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/don.mountainmaple

Recipe for Maple Butter Tarts

  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pastry in a large tart or cupcake pan. Beat all filling ingredients together with an electric mixer and pour into tart shells. Bake on the middle oven rack for 25 minutes 
*Options - add pecans or raisins to the mixture

About Sandra J. Trainor

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Sandra is a Freelance Marketing Consultant, specializing in assisting busy small businesses maximize sales and marketing ROI. Sandra recently returned to her hometown, after living and working in the Simcoe County area for more than 30 years. It was there where she developed her passion for local food and agriculture, while working with farmers, producers, farmers’ markets, retailers, and restaurateurs. She believes that food brings people together, no matter what their background and that food grown and produced close to us should be not only supported, but celebrated. In her spare time, Sandra loves to explore area lakes in her kayak and spending time at her cottage on the North Shore.

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