If you ever read or watched the Little House on The Prairie series I am sure you remember the time that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her sisters made sugar on the snow. Around Danbury, and neighboring towns, maple sugar time is almost a fifth season! It is a tradition that is cherished and waited for each year, as it signals the transition from winter to spring.
For those who have not had the privilege of feeding the fire, collecting the sap, or staying awake late into the night to reach the perfect time to take the syrup off the fire, you might not realize how much goes into the quart of maple syrup that you buy from the Danbury Country Store or your local syrup maker.
First you must be a weatherman! You have to be able to predict the perfect time to tap the trees. Waiting for the freezing nights and the warmer days. The days have to be warm enough for the sap to rise in the tree and then drip out of the tap into those iconic metal buckets or the plastic tube lines. At night it has to be cold enough for the sap to drop in the tree, back to the roots.
Then you have to gather all of your neighbors, relatives or friends to help collect the sap and bring it to the sugar house. In my experience this process requires a lot of adult beverage bribery. Once the sap is collected then the evaporation begins. In olden days it was done in a cast iron bucket over an open flame, or in the kitchen in a kettle (By the way, this ruins your ceiling, from the moisture). Moist people now use modern evaporators which require close monitoring and constantly feeding the fire, but it evaporates the sap much more efficiently, boiling it down to syrup. Once it is at that perfect point you need to be ready to pull the syrup off the fire and begin bottling.
This sounds like so much work, and yes it is. But it is a special time when people come together and work as a group to make this sweet maple nirvana. It is a tradition that is seen throughout New England and Canada. Often passing the secret tips to the next generation and connecting with your family in a special way.
When you visit a sugar house you might see the sugar makers creating sugar candy, maple cream or the classic golden maple syrup. This year the Sugar weekend in New Hampshire will be held during the weekend of March March 16 and 17th. Until then you can try your hand at making maple goodies, such as the Kicking Maple Vermont Chicken, the Maple and Apple Pie Stuffed Pork, the Maple Apple Drizzle Bread Pudding or Maple Walnut Brownies. All recipes found on our website ww.danburycountrystore.com
The possibilities are endless! Enjoy your winter and keep your eyes open for the tapping of the maples!