The long thaw has officially begun. Amongst the truth harbingers of spring atop our Vermont hillside are the unfurling of rhododendron leaves, roads rutting and freezing and rutting some more, dripping roofs, a rumor of some bulbs popping up at the public library in a neighboring town, and the tastiest sign, the one thick with hope: running sap.
It only lasted a few days, but with some seriously excited boys under foot and a very determined mama, we managed to finagle 5 gallons of sap out of ten trees by our house. A friend of Lee’s gave us a handful of buckets and spires the night before the infamous “day that felt like spring” and we were able to drill them in place just in time to see the sap spilling out. Wet, clear, kerplink- kerplank-kerplunks were chorusing over all our worn down icy trails. We peeped into those buckets with such fury over the next two days, and poured over every backyard maple sugaring book we could lay our hands on. Beginners we are at best, there were dozens upon dozens of butterflies in my chest thinking about the boiling, and the finishing, and the sampling that lay at hand.
I collected the sap on the second afternoon, knowing a colder forecast was closing in on us and sure enough it did. I lugged around a glass carboy from Lee’s beer brewing collection, hoping our neighbors didn’t happen to drive by to witness the struggle. It was only Wednesday and even I wasn’t willing to attempt to boil down this syrup without the help of another grown up. So, we buried it in the snow to wait for the weekend.
A few cinder blocks, an old stainless steel pot, and a grill grate made up the most rudimentary of setups imaginable, but it produced the amber gold we sought out to taste. All day long the sap rolled around, twirling into our noses making us salivate. A few friends stopped by on a whim, by chance, despite the wintry mix upon us and a few cold beverages, and a few hot ones were consumed by the fire. It was precisely how I envisioned such an event feeling.
This morning we woke up and quickly got to work on devouring a stack of pancakes so high they threatened to tip, and coated them in the thickest, smokiest, mapliest syrup we have ever had the privilege of getting stuck to our fingers. We spooned it on heartily and grinned and grinned and grinned.
The final result: The biggest pint of sweetness we ever saw.
And it’s almost gone already.