Monday, March 21, 2011

Maple Sugar Season is in Full Swing

This past weekend was NH Maple Producers Open House Weekend.  Sunday, we took advantage of the beautiful sunny sky and open houses, mapped out our route, and hit up five of them to check out what was "cooking".

The day started in Rindge at the Fieldstone Farm Sugar House.  It was crowded with families as Tim offered us free samples to sip (yum) and Dana explained the different grades of syrup from light to extra dark and what they are all best for.  Afterwards, a trip out to the field to see Abe the buffalo pace back and forth "greeting" visitors was a fun and unique experience.  

Our next stop was Coll's Farm in Jaffrey.  Coll's is a full fledged market with fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, and dairy, and other things grown/made by the farm.  Coll's was serving up pancakes all day and they were boiling extra dark maple syrup while we were there.

Next we drove up to Antrim for a completely different experience at Old Pound Road Sugar House.  OPRSH is a much smaller operation (40-50 gallons of syrup a year) which allowed for a more intimate setting.  We were on the later side and had missed the big crowds which worked to our advantage.  Charles was boiling today and as his only guests, he was able to give us an up close look at the filtering system for the syrup as his maple sap was reaching the magical boiling temperature of 219 to 220 degrees.  As a smaller operator, he doesn't necessarily have all the same fancy equipment the bigger guys have but it also means he does things the old fashioned way which was cool to see!

Our next stop was in Hancock at Longview Forest Products.  Bill was not boiling today because he had boiled all the sap he had and was waiting for the weather (and trees) to cooperate.  Bill has been making syrup since he was kid helping his dad and has now run his own operation for over thirty years.  He happily gave us a tour of his sugar shack explaining how the reverse-osmosis machine works and explaining his vacuum pumps that draw the sap from his taps/tubing and tanks.

The last stop on our tour was Ben's in Temple.  I don't think we realized how big Ben's operation was until we had visited some of the smaller shacks in the area.  The shack was packed wall to wall with visitors and maple syrup makers, he had lots of treats to try from "sugar on snow" (maple syrup drizzled on snow), maple flavored popcorn, maple syrup on vanilla ice cream, and much more.  There was a buzz around the place and since Ben makes more than just syrup (maple candies, popcorn, etc), so we were brought to the candy making/packaging room and shown how that is done.

It was a great day but we only scratched the surface.  We missed Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, Morning Star Maple in Dublin, and CB's Sugar Shack and Monadnock Sugar House in Jaffrey.  Maple sugaring will go on for several more weeks and next weekend has one more big event: Stonewall Farm is hosting their 12th Annual Sap Gathering Contest.  Twenty teams of horses race around the farms property through a course collecting maple sap from buckets and racing it back to the sugar house for boiling.

If you missed this year's weekend and cannot make it out for Stonewall Farm's event next weekend, make your plans for next year.  It's a fun...and sweet weekend to visit New Hampshire!

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