About 15 minutes outside of Brattleboro, VT, Dwight Miller & Son Orchards has been tapping sugar maples since before Vermont was a state. The claim to be the first white men in Vermont to tap sugar, may be supported by the eight plus generations of this family farming the land and tapping their sugar bush. Eight generations also means that this family knows sugaring and is a wealth of information if you want to learn about the sugaring process.
While we didn’t know either when we stopped by during the 2010 Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, we walked away with hands on sugaring experience, a peck of organic empire apples, a couple of bottles of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and three bottles of different grade organic maple syrup.
Read Miller, who currently runs the farm with his family, shared the history of the farm, explained the sugaring process to visitors, and even brought us down to tap a tree. His wife was also in the sugar shack bottling and labeling the latest batch of syrup. The informality of the open house allowed visitors to ask lots of questions.
The Miller’s sugar shack/farm store was filled with historical pictures and maps of the farm, but heading out to tap of tree was my favorite part of the day. With a cordless drill, small metal tap, a mallet and bucket, we walked down the lane to a sugar maple. One of the visitors drilled a hole and pounded in the tap, basically a 3/4 inch wide metal pipe with a hook on the underside. The bucket was hung from the hook on the tap and the maple sap began to run from the tree like a steadily leaking faucet.
Nothing like the syrup you put in your pancakes (and oatmeal, fish, roast veggies, cheese, apple pie, and more) the sap is like a maple-flavored sugar water. We were able to dip our finger in the catch bucket to taste. It’s only after hours of boiling to remove the water through evaporation that the sap thickens to what most of us are used to. It was surprising how much sap came out of the tap in just a short period and a tree can produce up to 3 gallons of sap in one day. Good thing as it take 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
For more info, including farmers markets and visiting opportunities, check out Dwight Miller & Son Orchards website http://www.vtfarmorg.com/.