Maple Sugaring Season in VermontMarch 7, 2019
by AUDREY COTY, NEBRASKA KNOLL SUGAR FARM
Maple is the flavor of Vermont. For centuries the settlers here have harvested sap each spring from maple trees on hillsides and boiled it down to maple syrup or sugar. It’s a true organic process here. Maple syrup production cannot be outsourced. You need the right trees, the right weather and rugged people. Stowe, Vermont has all three. Whether you tap one tree in your backyard or tap an entire mountain, you’re tapping into deep cultural roots of the Green Mountain State.
The Sugaring Process
The sap runs about 20 days anytime from late February through late April. Timing is all about the weather. Ideal conditions for the process to start are freezing nights and warm days. We, as sugar makers, have no control. Our task is to be ready to collect sap when it runs, and then to boil it down the very same day or night. The adrenaline runs, too, and it’s hectic. Sugaring work means fatigue but also exhilaration: the earth is stirring with new life. And then there’s the aroma of boiling sap. It’s heavenly; it keeps us going.
A modern sugaring operation collects sap through a network of plastic tubing lines wrapped from tree-to-tree through the woods. These woods have a special name: a sugarbush. The Nebraska Knoll sugarbush is too steep and remote for easy traveling, but visitors can see sap pouring into the sap shed and can walk to the trees with buckets.
Did you know?
It takes 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. A maple tree must grow for 50 to 80 years before it’s large enough to tap. Maple syrup tastes differently from town to town with variations in the soil.
Visiting a Maple Sugar House
A visit to Nebraska Knoll Sugarhouse on a boiling day delights the senses. You’ll experience:
The maple aroma.
The roar of the fire.
The smell of spruce, birch and beech from the wood pile.
Bubbles chasing through the pans.
Tasting hot syrup right off the pan.
Steam flowing from the cupola.
Tasting sap in the sap tank.
Bustling crew in wool jackets.
Sap buckets hanging from maples near the road.
A visit on non-boiling days offers lingering smells and aromas, syrup samples and a photo display of all aspects of maple sugaring.
How to celebrate Vermont’s sweetest season
Hoping to see syrup made first-hand? Vermont Maple Open House Weekend is a state-wide event in late-March celebrating the maple season. Sugarhouses across the state will be open for visitors. Visit one sugarhouse or stop by several. No two sugarhouses are the same, but everywhere you’ll find fresh syrup and a happy gathering of young and old.
About the author
Audrey and Lewis Coty, owners of the Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm, have tapped sugar maple trees in the foothills of Mt. Mansfield since 1980. Visitors are welcome to stop by year-round and their retail room features maple products for sale, and a display of photos and artifacts. Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm also posts daily updates on their boiling times.