I am very ashamed that I have waited so long to write about sugaring in Vermont, but time seems to have just passed me by before I knew it! So, I want to make up for my error today.
I think that probably one of the hardest things I have ever done was to help with sugaring, back in the day! Now I want you to know that I was young and thought that I was a strong and healthy young woman, but after a day of helping to drill the trees by hand, pounding in the spouts and then hanging the buckets, I was more than ready to hit the hay. And, of course, that was just the beginning.
When we drilled those holes and put the spouts in, the snow was deep and the buckets were partway up the tree. Then the sap began to run, the snow had melted some, and now the buckets were a lot higher on the tree. And what that meant to me was you had to be very careful when you lifted that heavy bucket filled with cold sap off the tree. Then you had to pour the contents of the bucket into a larger bucket with a sturdy handle and carry it to the waiting gathering wagon, which could be many feet away from the tree. And then, horrors, you had to lift the bucket up over your head and pour the contents into the wagon. For me, this meant trying desperately not to dump the contents over my head. Which I can assure you I did more than once!
Riding on the wagon back to the sugar house was fun, but I must admit that I never did help with the boiling of the sap. I think that this procedure is a lot more difficult than it sounds because it has to be done carefully and correctly in order to end up with the wonderful maple syrup that we all love. And of course, then the syrup has to be put into the waiting containers.
Nowadays, most sugar-makers no longer use buckets and spouts. Most of those who actually “sugar” use piping or plastic tubing that goes from the trees to the waiting evaporator or sugar house. I have never been involved in this new process and I can only hope that with the cutting out of the bucket/spout procedure it makes it a little easier, but I could be wrong. I do know that the boiling and putting the hot and wonderful syrup into the containers is very much the same.
Now, for those of you who are dyed in the wool Vermont sugar makers, I am sure that my description is probably silly. But for those of you who have never “sugared” and don’t know anything about it, I think that what I have written will give you some idea of the process. And I want to be sure that you know and understand that this is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Remember, when the sap runs, the sugar-maker has to run too! And regardless of how much you have to pay for real, honest-to-goodness, Vermont maple syrup, it is still a tremendous bargain. Nothing in the world is better than a stack of pancakes floating in Vermont maple syrup. And if you are one of the few who doesn’t like pancakes, put that golden syrup on or in your baked beans – absolutely fantastic.
So, put down your paper and go out and buy yourself a quart or a ½ gallon or even a gallon of syrup. You will never regret it.