Vermont’s Sugar Season

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Vermont Sugar HouseDown the road from Green Mountain at Fox Run, right at the four-way stop and over a bridge — that’s where Orville Woods makes maple syrup. He sells it by word of mouth. We drove there last night, getting lost along the way. The stars were bright and the moon shone in the metal pails that hung from the trees, collecting sap.

Finally, we saw a light at the end of the road and the telltale smoke. Orville and his brother, Kevin Kavanaugh, Green Mountain’s head of maintenance, were in the red shed boiling up a vat of sap. It smelled like sugar inside, steam wafting up toward the ceiling. Orville stirred the boiling sap with a tool resembling a shovel. Sometimes he’d dip it into the vat and lift it straight up. Sap would trickle down.

“If it starts to apron, then you’ve got syrup,” said Kevin, matter of factly. The drips coming off of the shovel turned slow and thick, hanging onto the rim before plopping back down. We had syrup!

After Orville tested it’s density with a hydrometer, the syrup went to a small holding tank, about the size of a kitchen sink, and was strained through a cloth. Orville answered our questions about the process. It boils at 218 degrees, it’s always the same thickness no matter what grade. Each year, Vermont decides what each grade–fancy, medium, dark amber and grade B–will look like. It depends on the season.

We learned a lot about syrup. Then we drank it, warm and straight from the spicket in little cups. It tasted like…well, heaven.

Orville said the trees around his house have been tapped for going on 100 years. After our visit, it’s easy to taste why.

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