Chile and Maple Sugar

31 Jul

For All You Chile Men

Tired of cutting up all that beef yourself?  Expected to produce your world-famous Chile for a crowd tonight?

Well, assuming that you have a personal butcher (as every he-man should), then ask him or her about the “Chile Plate”.  That’s a grinder plate with very large holes.  It’s  used to grind lean pieces of muscle meats into a nice coarse texture, which is – as you know – perfect for Chile.  Almost as good as cutting the meat into little chunks yourself.

 

Not me, but similar.

 

Proof that I’m a True Vermonter

In 1959, me (age nine) and my sister (ten) learned about maple sugaring in school, and were fascinated by it.  We decided to try making it. 

Carl Whitson, an old timer whose lawn I used to mow – happened to own the Lightning Evaporator Company, which made sugaring equipment.  He also owned a small maple woods behind his house.  So I went to talk with him. 

Carl was one of the greatest old guys I had ever met.  He took me down to his shop and had one of his hired men mount a gathering vat onto a sled, then loaned us a bunch of sap buckets and spouts, as well as an old hand-crank drill called a bitstock. 

He took my sister and me up to his little sugar woods and showed us what to do.  We tapped about 45 trees.  Every night after school my sister Lil and I would drag that sled with the gathering tank on it up the hill into the woods.  I would pull the sled through the woods and Lil would dump the buckets of sap into the tank.  Then we would both pull the sled down the hill to the house. 

My mother would boil the sap in large kettles on the wood stove until it was maple syrup.  Mother would filter some of the sap through cheesecloth and we would drink it cold like sweet water.  It was considered a treat. 

We made 3.5 gallons of syrup that year.  It was a dark, low grade, but it was good.  We gave old Carl a gallon for all of his coaching and help.  Lil and I gathered up all the buckets and washed them and returned all the equipment to Carl. 

The next year we were off the the orphanage.  But I always thought of the year that Lil and I made maple syrup.  We were out of the orphanage in 1964 and I got my driver’s license in 1966.  The first place I headed when I got a car was back to Richford to see all the old folks who had made such an impact on me.  Carl was now in his eighties.  I sat on his front porch with him, and he would tell anyone who happened by for a visit about the maple sugaring Lil and I had done.  I don’t believe that Carl, or old Jenny Rowwley, or old John Labell, or Corine Duval – the wonderful elderly folks I hung out with as a kid – ever knew what a great impact they had on my life.  All dead and gone now.  I will always remember them fondly.

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