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March 10, 2008

Making Maple Syrup

Business is sweet for Corriganville man

Leo Shinholt readily confirms the U.S. Department of Agriculture's stance that Maryland's production of maple syrup isn't worth noting in terms of abundance.

"That's true," said the owner of S&S; Maple Camp in Corriganville, but the amount that is produced is done so "with some of the best sugar maples in the world."

Shinholt speaks with authority. After all, he's part owner of Maryland's "largest and most modern" maple camps. And his family's sugar maple trees help produce some awfully good maple products, from the traditional syrup to the more contemporary candies and cremes. The S&S; Maple Camp brand is unique, Shinholt said, because it blends syrups from different trees from the family's handful of tree farms.

"Different trees, different soils," Shinholt said, helps make a different - better - product.

Shinholt and his family, including brothers Billy and Timmy Kennell and nephews Brent Willingham and Roy Douty, will tap between 10,000 and 12,000 maple trees in Allegany County and southern Pennsylvania. Through reverse osmosis, which separates the sap from water, raw sap is turned into a deliciously sweet maple product that can be used to flavor anything from coffee to oatmeal to peanut butter.

No one has forced Shinholt adding to his concoctions for sale. It's strictly a syrup, creme and confections business.

"I sell maple syrup," is how Shinholt wards off advances of so-called progress. His way, after all, has worked since 1968.

The product can, of course, stand by itself. A small group of visiting students from Frostburg State University's ethnobotany program saw firsthand how maple syrup is made and just how smooth the natural delights can be. The field trip resulted in a delicious discourse on the maple syrup production process.

Sunshine Brosi, FSU's ethnobotany program coordinator, said the students were there to participate in ethnographic field techniques and "gain basic information about the sugar maple's process."

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