Saturday, March 24, 2012

Flavor of the Month

Before sugaring season in many parts of Vermont ended earlier because of the unnatural Spring heat, I got to see a maple syrup farm live in action for the very first time.

To see a live-working, sap-boiling sugar house is a unique amenity of living in rural New England. At only a short drive away, we can see a long-standing tradition that has made Vermont's sugar maple trees famous. While there are places I've seen that still tap trees from traditional metal buckets, the modern-day way is through a series of tubes weaving through the trees.

The beginning of March marks the start of sugar season. To put it all simply, sap is collected after a cold night and a warm day, loaded into big white tanks, and hauled to a sugar house by a tractor.

I'll let you follow along with pictures to see it travel all the way down to our favorite sugar house.

The white pipe from the tractor takes the sap to a holding tank, and then the white tube across the bottom takes it inside to be boiled. After it has been boiled (after tons, and tons, and tons of water has been evaporated), you've got delicious maple syrup for drizzling atop a stack of your favorite buttermilk pancakes. Or for marinating your favorite breakfast sausage. OR (my recent favorite) for sweetening a berry New England pandowdy.

Wonder why it's so expensive? Perhaps because it takes roughly 50 gallons of sap for every gallon of maple syrup. Just my theory.

The different grades of syrup is determined by the weather. This year, I've been told most of this year's tapping has produced lots of dark amber. Blame it on the warmer-than-usual winter that we just had.

Did I get that right, Vermont?

I have nothing against New Hampshire's maple syrup--my loyalty is with the Vermont brand. We just don't bother buying the less famous kind.