Sugaring in Vermont With the Kids

Considering a great little holiday with the kids this winter? Why not take the kids 'sugaring 'in Vermont. Vermont maple sugar that is collected and bottled by hand is called 'sugaring.' Maple syrup producers in Vermont are also nicknamed 'sugar makers.'

The sugaring season starts in the spring when the weather is warm enough to make the sap flow. This is usually around the beginning of March. Sap is collected from Maple trees for about six weeks, during which it is ideal to visit a maple syrup production facility.
In Vermont the collecting of maple syrup sap is done the traditional way. The sap is collected from the trees, boiled to remove the water and then bottled. Nothing is added to Pure Maple Syrup. It is a completely natural.

Tree sap is collected by tapping small holes into a tree with a chisel and pick. These are called 'tapholes. ' These holes are small and only go about two inches deep. The tree must be more than forty inches in diameter to qualify as a source of maple sap. This means that only trees that are over forty years old can be tapped. The thawing sap running through the trees then drains through the spigot into the bucket. The sap is the freest flowing when the weather is alternating between freezing and warmer temperatures.

In Vermont there is everything from the small sugaring hobbyist who may only tap twenty trees to the large cottage industry that may tap as many as 40,000 trees. The buckets can be gathered by hand or they can be poured into some kind of tank on wheels or on a sleigh.

The sap is then taken to the sugarhouse. This can be a small hut or a big operation that almost resembles a factory. In Vermont you will find smaller, rustic cabins that don't have room for more than ten people and the evaporating equipment. Many of these sugarhouses also have a kitchen for making maple sugar, maple candy and maple fudge. A sure sign that a sugarmaker in Vermont is making syrup is the large quantities of steam that puff out of the chimneys of the sugaring cabins.

For the syrup to be of good quality it must be boiled as soon as possible. The evaporator can be as simple as a kettle on flames. The sap officially turns to syrup when the temperature in the boiling pot is seventy one degrees. The syrup is then filtered to remove any grit from the trees. Before it is bottled it is then graded to determine color and quality. In Vermont you can buy syrups that are graded Fancy, Medium Amber, Dark Amber or B.

One thing you can be certain of is that if the Maple Syrup you are buying is from Vermont is that it is probably a quality product!