Dotted across the woods line of Vermont you'll find little wooden shacks that are not quite a barn and not quite a shed. Most of the year these shacks sit dormant, cold, and empty, but when the snow begins to melt, the roads fill thick with mud, and, most importantly, when the sap begins to run they come to life.
Of course I am referring to Maple Sugaring Season! Its not to be confused with mud season, although they do coinside and it is widely known that every sugar house must be reached by first traveling the muddiest of roads. Four wheel drive is an absolute. Tractors are preferred.
Shawn and I went and visited a friend's Sugar House this past weekend. Its an a beautiful spot near the famous Jenne Farm in Reading, VT. Him and his cousin were busy boiling fresh running tree sap into delicious, sweet, maple syrup. The sight of billowing steam greeted us as we reached the Sugar House.
Well over a thousand gallons of sap had been run into the boiler and siphoned through the pans; slowly boiled over time in a step down process until only the golden brown, perfect, sticky liquid. The sap transforming from clear water into pure magic.
We watched as the syrup in the final step of the boiling pans thickened, heated, and reached the perfect temperature to come flowing out of a spout and into a bucket. Pure Gold.
In some strange chemistry-like experiment the exact consistency of the syrup was tested and the temperature of the boiler adjusted appropriately. It is a little more technical than it used to be a century ago where horse drawn wagons went around collecting individual buckets hung on trees. Now tubes connect tree to tree and eventually all of them lead to a gravity fed storage tank where a tractor can easily pick up just one large tank. No buckets, no snow, and a lot more time spend in the Sugar House enjoying hotdogs.
Besides taking the occasional shot of fresh, warm maple syrup the food of choice is a nice, juicy hotdog. Boiled in fresh Maple Sap, naturally. Let me say that it was the best, most magical, hotdog I have ever had and that has nothing to do with being pregnant. There is just something about boiling food in sap that makes it a hundred times more amazing.
As the light dimmed in the sky and the cold air rushed into the valleys and creeped through the cracks in the walls of the shack Shawn and I bid our friend and his cousin farewell. With my belly content, filled with syrup and a maplely delicious hot dog (that, not after writing about it, I desperately am craving again), we thanked our friend for allowing us to be part of his long standing family tradition for part of an afternoon and headed back down the muddy roads.
This is just one of the eighty seven thousand five hundred and thirty reasons I absolutely love Vermont.