Sugaring season happens in that narrow window between the depths of winter and the first signs of spring, aka sugar weather. That’s when the trees are tapped, using buckets and plastic tubing to collect sap. The syrup is then made inside a sugar shack: the farm building that houses an evaporator and other production supplies (and don’t forget a nearby griddle). The process is precise and labor-intensive, which explains the higher price tag than most syrup found in grocery stores. Not to mention, it can take between two and five trees to make just one gallon of syrup! Pitcoff says that table syrup or flavored syrup — the stuff I grew up on — isn’t real maple syrup. “They’re flavored corn syrups, and are an entirely different product. Pure maple syrup is made from nothing but concentrated sap from maple trees.” OK OK, I’m sold!
I begin my sweet journey at Sweet Brook Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts. This picturesque, year-round farm is home to a family of alpacas who greet you upon arrival (you can buy products made from their wool). You can also take a sleigh ride! But let’s not forget what we came here for — that sweet, sweet nectar of the trees. It’s here I learn that all syrup is labeled Grade A, and falls within four categories: Golden Color and Delicate Taste, Amber Color and Rich Taste, Dark Color and Robust Taste, and Very Dark with a Strong Taste. It’s like choosing a favorite child, so I purchase one of each.