Maple syrup collecting is carried on by Joan, Susan and Dan

By Denise Bacon

Joan Kunanec’s home has become a source of the family-favourite Kunanec maple syrup over the last 15  years. The love story began more than 60 years ago when Joan’s sweetheart, Mike, built their home on Meadowvale Road at a time when Colonel Danforth Rd. met Meadowvale Rd., well before the Lawrence Ave bridge was built. Soon after moving into their new home, Mike planted maple trees on their large property to offer shade and splendour.

Fast forward many years as Joan and Mike’s six children grew up and forged their respective paths in life. One of the girls, Pat, and her late partner, Mac, entered and won the Blue Ribbon at a maple syrup festival in Port Perry about 16 years ago.

That Blue Ribbon spurred Mike to tap his own maple trees, which had grown into magnificent sentries on their property. The lure of tapping into his trees and into the legacy of maple syrup in Canada drove Mike and Joan to Claremont to purchase the equipment to make their own maple syrup. The Kunanec maple syrup story thus began.

The Kunanec maple syrup story started with Mike

Mike passed away in early 2020 and had a hugely attended funeral at St. Joseph’s Church, fitting of one of the early residents of Centennial. The maple syrup story continues at the Kunanec home, now under the stewardship of Dan, the youngest son who shares the passion with his late Dad.

Dan tapped the one Manitoba maple and three silver maple trees in mid-February. The maple sap flows with the rhythm of nature. The ideal conditions for the sap range between -5 degrees C at night to +5 degrees C during the day. Sunshine helps. The sugar concentrates in the sap vary by species of maple trees. Sugar maples have the highest sugar content. The silver and Manitoba maple trees on their property produce about 15 gallons (57 litres) of sap per weekend it is as clear as water. Once the temperatures rise as the trees start to bud, the sap becomes cloudy and that marks the end of tree-sapping for the year.

Making maple syrup for Dan and Joan is a labour of love. Mike is ever present in their hearts and minds through the process. “Every day since the sap starts running, there’s a pot boiling, simmering or cooling,” said Dan who completes the first part of the process. He strains the boiled sap through gold coffee filters or pantyhose to remove all sediments when it is reduced to a thicker amber liquid.

Then, Dan hands over the process to Joan to complete the boiling process in her kitchen. Here, Joan produces the thicker gold treasure of maple syrup. One week’s collection of sap will produce about 1 ½ litres of syrup. Daughter, Susan, helps Joan to bottle and label the syrup. The first bottle of maple syrup made each year is presented as a birthday gift to one of Joan’s granddaughters who was born in the spring at maple syrup time.

The Kunanec family tradition will continue as the maple sap promises to run again next year.