Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Gentle Steward's Sugar House IV

The small main room feels like a warm steam bath and lusciously sweet to inhale. The boiling bubbles make their own music and nearly spill over the edge of the large evaporator Roger uses for boiling. Just when the bubbles are about to burst over Roger tosses a drop of cream into the foam and it instantly recedes into submission. The bubble beast is tamed by a tiny bit of fat within the drop of cream. Each time it is quite startling to witness how rapidly the change takes place simply from a dash ... a dot of cream.

Roger controls the movement of the sap through the different compartments of the evaporator, allowing it to flow in from the storage tanks and moving it through a refining process. In the last evaporator compartment he holds up a flat metal ladle to see how thick the syrup is. If the syrup forms little beads on the edge of the ladle and hangs down like a sheet, it is ready to be released into a stainless steel pail and immediately poured into the final syrup filtering tank. Roger pulls a lever and it flows out into containers that will end up in our refrigerators. This is the time when the tiny cup of hot syrup is offered to a guest with seconds encouraged. The warm rich sweet drink is like a tonic... delicious. The earlier runs offer a lighter amber color and flavor, where as later on in the season, the color is more dark amber and richer in flavor.

The sugar season will last as long as the days warm to about 45 to 50 degrees and chill at night to around 20 degrees. We can enjoy the sweet syrup for months to follow.

As I leave Roger to his labor of love, for it truly is a great deal of work, I chance to see him thru a window stirring his sap. I feel grateful for knowing this kind native New Englander and for the honor of being able to saunter through his handsomely maintained sugar orchard. I walk down the hillside stopping at several elegant trees to hear the sap tunes and notice a gurgling brook and a blue bird's soft call. We are kindred spirits Roger and I in our shared sense of reverence towards the land... towards nature.

Spring's call to the rock maples to - 'let it flow' - is a welcome seasonal ritual and the beginning of fresh new stirrings in songs and growth.

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