Monday, March 28, 2016

Maple Sugaring in New Hampshire

In late February and most of March, when the weather is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, many folks in New England begin tapping sugar maple trees.  The rising temperatures creating pressure below and above the ground in the maple tree cause the sap to flow.  The girth of the maple determines how many taps to put into it.  The sap resembles water and tastes slightly sweet. 

March is when the New Hampshire Maple Syrup Producers open their doors each weekend to visitors viewing their large scale sugaring operations where many sell maple syrup to candies.  We serve award-winning maple syrup at breakfast made by the multi-generational, family-run business Fuller’s Sugarhouse in Lancaster, NH. Their grand scale operation produces more than 4,000 gallons of maple syrup each year. 

When we moved up to New Hampshire from New Jersey, we saw that some of our neighbors tapped their maple trees running plastic lines from tree to tree emptying sap into a plastic barrel.  We decided to join in the fun and tap some of our sugar maples, including one over 100 years old.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of dark, thick maple syrup but we pressed on not caring how long it would take us to boil it down.

Bill drilled a hole into the tree and hammered in a copper spile that he fastened to an empty plastic milk jug collecting the sap.  Each day, we would empty the sap into a large stock pot, bring it to a boil on our gas stove, turn off the flame, and let the heat from the pilot light under the pot generate enough heat for condensation of water in the sap to occur.  A slower process that took about one week, but the end result was the same as if we boiled it constantly.  The sap eventually reduced down to a dark amber maple syrup that was thick and sweet.  Our small scale operation yielded over 1-1/2 quarts of syrup which we proudly bottled for our children in New Jersey.

Our neighbor was more ambitious. He boiled sap on a wood fire pit near the edge of the forest where he tapped the sugar maples.  This larger scale home operation was more efficient because plastic tubes were connected to taps in about a dozen maple trees dripping sap into several large containers.  The sap was emptied into metal trays and boiled over the fire at a faster rate.  The wood was replenished all day until the sap became maple syrup.  The family rotated monitoring the sap boiling process.  It’s an enjoyable way to spend the day in an idyllic setting of forest, stream, and mountains.

Outdoor photos courtesy of Brian Boyle
Bottled photo courtesy of Bill Petrone

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