Making Maple Syrup in Vermont – a shared moment

I met John, aka Movin’ On, when we were both walking the Appalachian Trail. With the wonders of internet, we’ve managed to keep in touch over the years, though homes have moved.  John set roots down in Vermont and recently posted about harvesting maple syrup on Facebook. This took me back.

My family regularly spent weekends in New Hampshire, when I was growing up, where we had a small cabin (think ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ one of Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s first books if you haven’t read it). The area had no shortage of maple trees and each winter we would see buckets hanging from trees collecting the sap. It’s a scene that has painted itself into one of my fondest childhood memories.

I know many people don’t actually know where Maple Syrup comes from (answer: maple trees, hence the name), or if they do, how it is done (essentially the trees are ‘tapped for their sap’), so  I asked John if he would write about his experiences, as I felt this something quite unique and worth sharing.

“I certainly don’t consider myself any sort of an authority on the art of maple syrup making. In fact, we’d lived in VT for probably 5 years before a friend taught me how to tap [maple] trees. I did not have the facilities to boil down the sap, but he introduced me to another fellow that would boil the sap and give me 1/2 the syrup it produced. So, the next day I went and bought some used buckets, lids and taps, came home and found about 40 trees on my place suitable for tapping. This year I put out 50 buckets and gathered and delivered 468 gallons of sap. That produced 8 gallons and 1 quart of maple syrup, my part.

As for some of the specifics, the rule of thumb is it takes 40 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of syrup – depends on the sugar content of the sap. All of my sap tested close to 3% so it only took about 28 gal/gal of syrup. The higher the sugar content, the less time and fuel it takes to boil it down. If you are really interested in some of the technical aspects, just google the subject of “making maple syrup” and you’ll get more information than you can use.

Oh, I do it the old fashioned way. Empty the buckets into 5 gallon containers, then carry that up to my truck to deliver. Lots of work. The new method uses plastic tubing from one tree to the other, ending up in a central gathering tank down the hill. From there it is pumped into another tank on a truck and delivered to the sugar house. There is no physical handling of the sap.

More than once when I delivered this year I would be in line behind a fellow unloading a tank with 325 gallons (he has 600 taps) and when I got there I dumped my 20 to 30 gallons of sap. Of course, he will be selling syrup and I will give all mine away. ” – Movin’On – 92,93

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