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The maple sugaring season usually begins in southern Vermont in late February and continues through March, well into April in northern Vermont. The sap only flows from the maple trees when the weather conditions provide the right combination of cold nights and warm days. To make one gallon of maple syrup, sugar-makers must boil down approximately forty gallons of sap. An average maple tree provides ten gallons of sap, so millions of sugar maple trees are tapped for the annual harvest.
A maple tree should be from 30-40 years old before tapping, and over 10 inches in diameter. Sugar-makers are very careful not to over tap maple trees, or tap trees that are too young for harvesting sap. A single maple tree can have several individual taps and buckets depending on it's age and size, and as a rule, a maple tree can give as much as a gallon of sap for each tap it has per day.
Sap from maple trees is a colorless liquid with a light sweet taste. Through boiling, the maple taste and amber color are formed.
Groups of maple trees are called "sugar-bushes" or "maple orchards" and the boiling of sap takes place in unique sugar houses with characteristic vented roofs, to let out the steam that is generated during the boiling process. Many of these Vermont sugar-house houses are very old and have been used for generations.
Preserving Maple Syrup: Maple syrup will remain fresh almost indefinitely, as long as the original container is unopened and kept in a dry cool place. After the container is opened, maple syrup should be kept refrigerated.
There are several maple syrup grades; Light Amber or Fancy Grade, which has a mild maple taste and is made early in the season when the weather is coldest; Medium Amber Grade A which is a fine table syrup and has a little more maple flavor; and Dark Amber which is slightly darker and has a stronger maple flavor. B Classification, known as cooking syrup, is made late in the season and has a strong maple flavor.