Today I spotted two buckets hanging from a maple tree. Maple sugaring has begun.
This is a story we posted previously, one worth another look.
Tapping the Sweet Stuff
WE STARTED with five brand-new buckets, drilling a 1/2" hole in the side of each, an inch or so below the rim. When I asked my guide, Peter Amell, if he gets new buckets and taps each year, his reply spoke to the essence of the region where so much maple syrup is harvested.
"Why no." he said, "That wouldn't be the Yankee way."
Mr. Amell lives in Maine and has been tapping the maple trees that line his property for well over ten years.
The day of my first visit we enjoyed above freezing temperatures and a warming sun. It was early March and the sap, a bit late, was just beginning to flow. Sap flows best when the days are warm and nights are cold.
Single file, we trudged through the snow-covered yard to the first of five maples. Mr. Amell drilled a hole in the side of the tree then pushed (and tapped) a plastic spile into the hole—and the sap was flowing. Drip, drip, dripping, like water from a leaky faucet. And, like water, the sap comes from the tree clear and colorless.
Depending on how well the sap is flowing, the buckets may fill overnight or over the course of a few days. We must wait.
When I return the following week, Mr. Amell (who had collected and replaced more than 10 buckets of sap over six days) stands obscured behind billows of steam rising from the two pots of sap he set to boil. In boiling and reducing the sap, it takes nearly 40 gallons to produce just one gallon of syrup.
With a bounty sap-filled buckets, Mr. Amell offers a taste of the cold clear sap he has collected from the trees. I am surprised by its purity. At this stage, it's very much like drinking a glass of water. It is only in the steam wafting from the pots that I catch the faint smell of maple.
The sap takes on a golden hue as it boils down, becoming thick enough to coat a spoon, though not yet thick enough to be labeled syrup. So Mr. Amell is patient, boiling and reducing the sap, routinely analyzing the color and viscosity of the ambrosia he so carefully tends.
It's when I return again the following week that Mr. Amell offers me a taste of syrup . . . a thick, sweet amber syrup . . . and it is delicious.