Maple Sugaring In NHREVIEWS | Nirasha Jaganath | March 8, 2009 at 7:53 pm
Maple Sugaring has always been a fascinating event to me. This year I plan to take my kids so that we can all experience it. I was lucky enough to get the inside scoop and talk to Barbara Lassonde, a Publicist from the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association. Below are some of the questions I asked her:
When is Maple Sugaring season?
The Maple Sugaring season takes place in the Northeastern US & Southeastern Canada during the months of February, March & April. (In NH it’s mostly the month of March) This is when temperatures warm enough to thaw the sap in the maple trees. The sap is harvested and boiled down in evaporator pans in a sugar house until it reaches the proper density to be classified as maple syrup. This tradition began hundreds of years ago with the native Americans, and is carried on today. Prior to the Civil War, the sap was boiled down into sugar, which could be stored, thus the name “Sugaring Season”. During the Civil War, metal containers were introduced, and maple producers began bottling and selling maple syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup! The season lasts 4-6 weeks, and begins in Southern NH about a week or two ahead of Northern NH. Temperatures in the 20’s at night, followed by daytime temperatures in the low 40’s are ideal for good sap runs.
Is this a NH specific occurrence?
The maple sugaring season takes place in 14 states and 4 Canadian provinces. This is where sugar maples thrive and the climate is conducive to good sap flows.
What age group (regarding children) would you recommend on these tours?
During the sugaring season, most maple producers welcome visitors into their sugar houses and gladly explain the sugaring process. Some offer tours of the sugar house, maple orchard, and hands on participation. This is a fun event for the entire family. Children as young as one or two will enjoy “helping”.
Do you advise bookings be made ahead of time (i.e. are they normally heavily booked?)
Those interested in visiting a sugar house should call ahead to check on boiling times. Because the sap doesn’t “run” every day, the sugar house may not be open. New Hampshire Maple Weekend is March 28 & 29, and over 50 sugar houses around the state will be open to visitors. One does not have to call ahead on those days, just show up. Some sugar houses will be crowded that weekend, so if you don’t like crowds, plan to visit on another day. Weekends are usually the busiest, but boiling takes place whenever the sap runs, so for a group, weekdays are usually the best time for a visit.)
What is the range of pricing (in this economic time people will want to know before they tour)?
There is no charge to visit a sugar house! Some offer horse-drawn rides for a small fee, others offer sugar-on-snow parties, pancake breakfasts, or other treats for a fee. If one wishes to purchase pure maple syrup, sugar, candy, maple cream, etc., the prices vary from sugar house to sugar house.
Some sugar houses are located at educational farms, where one will learn about maple sugaring: the process & history, tap a tree, help collect sap, etc. These farms also give workshops & tours of the other buildings where visitors will learn how people lived centuries ago, their crafts & means of survival. There may be an admission fee at these locations.
What else is there to do besides maple sugaring at these places?
Some farms allow visitors to meet their livestock such as newborn lambs, calves, buffalo, horses, etc. One maple producer has a petting zoo. These places usually appeal to younger children. A few other producers have horse-drawn sap collecting, one holds a sap collecting contest with several teams of horses. For a list of sugar houses and what they offer, check the NH Maple Producers Association website: nhmapleproducers.com. A special list of those participating in NH Maple Weekend will be posted on the website about mid-March.
What is your favorite place?
My favorite place?…My own sugar house will be open to the public for the first time this year. My husband & I run “Beaver Meadowbrook Farm” in Warner, NH. & just built a new sugar house. We have buckets & tubing collection systems, and kids may empty the buckets into the collection tank. I’ve authored a book on the history of Maple Sugaring in NH, and will speak to visitors on those facts. My husband runs the evaporator & visitors can watch that process while he explains what he does.
*Picture courtesy of NH Maple Producers Association