Finally, after trying for a couple years, the children and I headed up to Vermont to learn the process for sugaring and to help where we could.
Nonni and Poppi have been sugaring for so many years, they have a simple, fool-proof system in place. But, the weather and the sap still have to do their part, and you just never know what each year will bring.
Our timing proved to be perfect this year. The sap had stalled out while Nonni was down in Virginia with grandkids (more on that in another post), and as soon as she returned home it started back up again. By the time the children and I left on Saturday morning, about 60 gallons of sap needed to be boiled down.
Here’s how the process works:
In addition to tapped trees all around, some trees have tubing tapped into them, which then runs down the hill into plastic cans by the Sugar Shack.
A fire is stoked up in the sugar stove at the start of each day, and the large metal pan on top is filled with sap. This boils and steams all day long, with someone going out to put in more wood and refill the pan every hour or so.
The sap looks like water when it comes out of the tree.
There’s something so satisfying about going out to check on the sap. I loved the simple pleasure of filling the fire box, pouring in more sap, enjoying the warm breath when you open the sugar stove door. So soothing.
After the sap has boiled down to a caramel brown color at the end of the day, Nonni and Poppi pour it out of the giant pan off the sugar stove into a pot to take into the house to complete the process of boiling it down the rest of the way, which requires watching it a little more closely, then bottling it up to seal it until it is needed over the year ahead.