A sappy story
Maple Weekend offers a chance to taste the sweet stuff
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Maple sugaring season has arrived once again in New Hampshire. And the state’s maple producers have their trees tapped and their evaporators fired up, ready to welcome visitors for this year’s Maple Weekend, Saturday, March 28, and Sunday, March 29.
“The sap has been running for a number of days now, so we’re off to a good start. We’re hoping that everyone has a good season and Mother Nature cooperates with cold nights and warm but not too warm days,” Barbara Lassonde of the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association (NHMPA) said.
This past winter’s ice storm did cause damage to some of the maple orchards, but perhaps not as extensive as some reports have indicated.
“The most damage was in south-central New Hampshire along the Massachusetts border, around Temple, Jaffrey and Lyndeborough. Some of those farms have found new orchards to tap, and some have decided to take a year off and do clean-up this summer. But the amount of taps lost in the ice storm that were not made up by tapping new orchards is only about one percent of the total taps,” Lassonde said.
The maple sugaring season lasts approximately six weeks, once the daytime temperatures are in the low 40s and the nighttime temps are in the high 20s. That’s when the sap begins to run in the trees. The state’s maple industry produces approximately 90,000 gallons of maple syrup each season.
Sap looks like water and has a slightly sweet taste, and it takes 40 gallons of it, boiled in an evaporator, to make just one gallon of syrup. It’s graded according to color, flavor and clarity. The most popular are Grade A-light amber, produced early in the season, and Grade A-medium amber. Grade A-dark amber and Grade B work best in recipes, though some people enjoy their almost molasses-like flavor on pancakes and waffles.
New Hampshire’s Maple Weekend started 17 years ago as Maple Sunday and was so successful that the event was extended to two days. This year more than 65 maple producers will open their sugar shacks to the public. Lassonde noted some of the farms in the southern part of the state will get 100 to 200 visitors that weekend.
“People like to know where their food comes from, especially with the recent food scares. This is a great opportunity to see the syrup being made. And people have been cooped up all winter, so this is a chance to get outside and enjoy the spring weather,” Lassonde said.
Tamarack Farm in Canterbury is one of the producers that will participate in the weekend event. Owner Jim Snyder said his place wasn’t damaged in the ice storm, and he plans to offer horse-drawn hayrides, syrup, and sugar on snow — a maple candy made when syrup heated to between 230 and 235 degrees is poured onto clean snow or shaved ice.
“It’s shaping up to be a pretty good season but could still go either way,” Snyder said.
Dean Wilber of Mapletree Farm in Concord said he experienced very little storm damage both at the farm and the area he leases farther up the road. He was concerned about the warmer weather the area experienced for a time, which can stop the sap run. For Maple Weekend, he said, “We go all out on Saturday with free samples of syrup, maple-coated nuts, maple cream, and sugar on snow. Weather permitting, there is a self-guided tour of the orchard and woods. We may or may not be boiling on Sunday, depending if there is sap. Only syrup samples will be available Sunday, if we are boiling.”
Here is a list of some farms that will open their sugar houses to the public on Maple Weekend. For a complete list, plus more information on maple syrup, check out the New Hampshire Maple Producers Web site, www.nhmapleproducers.com.
• Tamarack Farm (125 Asby Road, Canterbury, 783-9226, www.geocities.com/tamfarm2001) will be open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free samples, sugar on snow, syrup tasting, farm tours and horse-drawn rides (for a small fee).
• Mapletree Farm (99 Oak Hill Road, Exit 16 off Interstate 93, Concord, 224-0820) will be open Saturday only, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., offering sugar on snow, samples of maple syrup and other maple products, and coffee — no charge — and a self-guided walking tour of orchard and woods, weather permitting. Boiling Sunday afternoon if there is sap.
• Ben’s Sugar Shack (83 Webster Hwy., Temple, and 694 Route 103, Newbury, 562-6595) will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free samples of sugar on snow, maple cotton candy, hot maple syrup on vanilla ice cream, maple candy and baked goods.
• Maple Butternut Farm (Pine Echo Road, off Route 136, New Boston, 487-5508) will be open Saturday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free maple syrup samples, coffee and doughnuts, and a demonstration of making syrup with a wood-burning evaporator. Visitors are always welcome when you see steam.
• Middle Branch Farm (280 Colburn Road, New Boston, 487-2540) will be open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (it’s open daily throughout the sugaring season) with wood-fired boiling of sap the traditional way. There’s a post-and-beam sugar house and sugar woods tours. They’ll be serving sugar on snow, coffee, homemade donuts, pancakes, maple baked beans and other maple treats.
• The Grant Family Pond View Maple Sugar House (224 Mt. Dearborn Road, Weare, 529-4148) will be open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free food Saturday only; sample maple products and try homemade chili, hot dogs steamed in sap, coffee, tea, popcorn and maple cotton candy. Coloring books and crayons for kids.
• Beaver Meadowbrook Farm Sugar House (402 Route 103 E, Warner, 456-6052 or 224-2452) will be open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free syrup samples, maple coffee and other goodies.
Tour the new sugar house and maple orchard; try sap-gathering for kids. Watch the boiling process and learn the history of maple sugaring.