Here in Vermont, New Hampshire and across the maple sugar producing region, the sap has been running early this year. Typically open house time at the local sugar houses (peak season) is around the 2oth of March but this year the unusually warm weather has created a very short season.
A good mapling season requires cold nights and warm days. Typically snow is still on the ground even if the country roads are clear but muddy. Traditional maple syrup equipment often included horses and sleds with collection containers to bring the watery sap to the sugar house for boiling down into sweep, sticky syrup.
Traditionally maple sap is collected by drilling a small hole in a sugar maple tree and the “tap” is hammered in and a galvanized bucket is hung to collect the sap. A metal cover helps to keep leaves, twigs and bugs out of the sap (sap is also filtered later). The buckets are emptied into larger containers. Modern methods use plastic taps and tubing to bring the sap to large collection containers.
Once the sugar boilers are started, traditionally with wood but some modern houses have been outfitted with natural gas, the evaporators are manned around the clock. Often extended family members and friends help out with the boil and contribute their own maple sap collected on their property.
Inside the Sugar House
A farmer feeding wood into the maple sugar evaporator inside the family’s Vermont sugar shack.
When you buy real natural maple syrup (as opposed to factory produced artificially flavored corn syrup), you are supporting a way of life. In rural area through out New England, local farmers tap maple trees on their land and use traditional wood fired evaporators to boil and reduce the sap into sweet liquid gold. This sugar house in Hartland Four Corners was build in 1954. Four generations of have been involved in the annual spring ritual of harvesting and producing sweet syrup from maple sap in this hot and steamy sugar house.
When a bucket fills with maple sap, the sap is collected and dumped into a holding tank. Once the holding tank is full, the sap is transported to a sugaring house, where all of the equipment is kept. The sap is poured into a maple syrup evaporator; that’s where it is boiled down. The evaporator is crucial to the maple-syrup-production process. Maple sap is mostly water, and all of this water must be boiled out of the sap to concentrate the sugars into syrup.
When the sap is poured into the maple syrup evaporator, it is first heated through with steam. The evaporator produces steam, and a series of pipes transports the cold sap through this steam. Once the sap is heated to almost boiling by the steam, it is delivered to large, flat pans where it is boiled until the water evaporates, leaving the sugary syrup behind. The syrup is then drawn into containers and filtered to remove any impurities. After it’s filtered, the syrup is bottled and ready to consume.
“Sweet Steam” was taken at a Vermont Sugar Shack during the mapling season when the sap from maple trees is collected and boiled down to make pure, natural, sweet maple syrup.
No ingredients are added. It takes 24 gallons of maple tree sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. The maple sugaring season occurs right around the first week of spring when the days are warm and the nights are cold. This is when the sap runs.
The farmers harvest about seven percent of the tree’s sap which does not hurt the trees. Vermont is the number one maple syrup producer. New Hampshire, Maine and Canada are also large producers of maple syrup.
Real maple syrup is an all natural product free of alergens and its purchase supports family farms and a quality of life unlike the mass produced sugar water substitute fake factory products pushed by the national brands.
Photographs of the traditional maple syrup harvest as well as sugar houses around Vermont and New Hampshire can be purchase at – http://edward-fielding.pixels.com/art/maple
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