Look for sweets during NE maple syrup season
The recent unseasonably warm weather provided an early start to the New England maple syrup season. (Photo Metro Creative Services)
Could New England’s mud season be the cutest season of them all?
If we mean maple syrup—that super-sweet sap we take from trees and boil down into magic—this is it.
Discovering the maple syrup process and products throughout the region can make for delightful day or weekend trips. Part of the charm: visiting quaint towns along the way.
“One of the nice things about us,” said Dave Fuller, owner of Fuller’s Sugar House (www.fullerssugarhouse.com) in Lancaster and a longtime member of the New Hampshire Maple Producers’ Association, “is that we’re really accessible. If you see steam coming out of a sugar house, stop by.”
Maple harvesters as a whole, he said, love sharing their art and craft. And coming out of the long winter, he said, is a welcome event.
“Really, maple syrup is the first crop of the season,” he said. “Some people milk cows. We milk trees.”
The states of New England rank highly in the production of maple products, with New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts all currently busy with sap processing and product production at peak levels.
The best spots for maple produce tend to be where the maple trees are dense, said Winston Pitcoff, coordinator of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association.
“Maple syrup can only be made where there are maple trees, and best in large concentrations,” he explained. “It takes a lot of sap (more than 40 gallons) to make a gallon of syrup, so maple producers are moving to where there are lots of maple trees for efficiency.”
The soil and climate of western Massachusetts is best suited for sugar maples to thrive, so that’s where you’ll find most maple-producing locations (although there are some in eastern Massachusetts as well). For a list of places to visit see www.massmaple.org/buy-maple-syrup/directory/
The season started early this year – no surprise given the warmer weather – but the good news is that it’s not ending early. Pitcoff said: “March is shaping up to be the perfect weather for the sap to keep running. We never know how good it will be until it’s all done, but so far it’s been great and there’s no sign of it being ready any time soon.”
In New Hampshire, Fuller said, the season is on track, and maples are flowing now.
Maple aroma, he said—as in the case of wine—can be directly associated with the soil. New Hampshire’s predominantly granite soil contributes to an especially sweet harvest, he said.
“There are a lot of subtle differences in taste out there,” he said. And finding sugar mills that are actually producing should be easy: Fuller said they typically work 20-hour days this time of year; 16 preparations and about four actually making the syrup every day.
Vermont is also a maple star, so much so that the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association (vermontmaple.org; founded 1893) appoints an annual ambassador from one of its many sugar houses.
You can find sugar houses and events throughout Vermont, including two major statewide open houses taking place March 25-26 and April 1-2 where you’ll find everything from tapping classes to to pancake breakfasts in locations deep in the Vermont woods (https://vermontmaple.org/mohw).
A must during Vermont maple season is to indulge in a Creemee, a unique Vermont maple ice cream-like treat.
Back in the Bay State, Pitcoff said maple enthusiasts can find all kinds of setups and unique products to take home.
“We have members ranging from hobbyists with just a few trees to commercial producers with more than 10,000 faucets,” he said.
Visit Ferrindino Maple in Hampden (https://ferrindino.com/) for specialty glass bottles, or enjoy a full maple treat at Sugarhouse Restaurant at Hollis Hills Farm in Fitchburg (https://www.hollihillsfarm.com/). Menu. ).
For a unique twist, try the infused syrup at Quissett Hill Farm in Mendon (quissetthillfarm.com/) or maple-covered nuts and maple BBQ sauce at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock (www.iokavalleyfarm.com/).
And to savor the sweetness while learning about saving the earth, check out sustainable production practices at Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington (www.justameretreefarm.com/).