Juan Vadell Jr. started making maple boxelder syrup three years ago while working at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
“It was one of those things that went from a curiosity to an interest, to whatever the next steps are, to basically obsessed,” Juan Jr. said.
After doing some research, he tapped a couple of trees and started collecting sap.
He collected 10 gallons of sap…which produced only about half of a mason jar.
“After that, I was looking for more. I was like, ‘Is anybody selling this somewhere? Can I buy boxelder syrup off anyone?’ I didn’t really find anybody that was selling it so I decided maybe this is a good way to go,” Juan Jr. said.
But his dad wasn’t convinced.
“I think you’re crazy! Syrup up here?! I mean, there’s not enough trees, but he did find some farms and it’s working out,” said Juan Vadell, Juan Jr.’s dad.
Now, he has more than 100 trees tapped which took about eight hours to set up.
Every few days, he makes the one-hour trek to the farm to take the accumulated sap back home.
“You treat it as milk, basically. So a couple of days of 55 and over weather will spoil your sap,” Juan Jr. said.
The next steps are where the magic happens.
It takes about 35 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. He boils it for around four hours.
Although it’s a slow process, he does get a little bit of help.
“I’m with him because I like spending time with him and his brother when he’s around. Even if I don’t think it’s going to work, I’m still there with him and helping him out whatever needs to happen, truck or spending that few hours boiling syrup,” Juan Sr. said.
They say it’s lighter tasting than traditional syrup — it has more butterscotch and vanilla flavors.
If you want to get your hands on some, you’ll have to wait until the North Prairie Farmers Market, which starts in July.
Juan Jr. also makes lilac, plum, apple and aronia berry syrups, too.
CLICK HERE for more information.