Off the Clock: Must be the season of the maple
Maple syrup, maple candy, sugar on snow, barbecued ribs, baked beans — the list of maple-flavored inspirations is limited only by our imagination, and from late February until early April the maple producers of New Hampshire do their part in fueling these imaginations, tapping their trees and boiling the gathered sugar water into the sweet liquid icon of the Granite State.
New Hampshire residents and visitors will have the opportunity to celebrate this annual harbinger of spring during New Hampshire Maple Weekend, March 24-25, when more than 50 sugarhouses throughout the state open their doors to visitors in search of everything maple.
Inns and restaurants get in on the celebration also. The 12 inns that make up the “Beds and Breakfasts Inn Mount Washington Valley” are offering special packages and their own “Maple Madness March,” a self-guided inn-to-inn tour and scavenger hunt complete with prizes, including a gift certificate for use at one of their B&Bs and a year’s supply of New Hampshire maple syrup.
“New Hampshire Maple Weekend is just a great opportunity for people to gather the children, grab the camera and experience the sights, smells and tastes of what New Hampshire’s maple sugar producers have to offer,” said Barbara Lassounde, spokesperson for the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association and author of “Maple Sugaring in New Hampshire.”
While the history of maple sugaring in the state reaches back three centuries, the state’s fickle weather makes each year different. And while a visit to a working sugarhouse is fun no matter how many gallons of sap have been harvested, a visit during a high-volume season is especially exciting.
According to Lassounde, 2007 might just be one of those seasons.
“It’s going to be a good year,” said Lassounde, whose own sugaring experiences reach back to the 1970s, when she was a child on her grandfather’s farm. “We were a little concerned with the warm weather we had in January but with the recent cold weather and the expected warm up we should be in for a good season.”
A good season will be had when daytime temperatures climb toward 40 degrees and fall below freezing to the 20s at night, Lassounde said.
While it can take anywhere from 25 to 75 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, the average is about 40 gallons to one, Lassounde said, depending on the concentration of sugar found in the sap.
A good maple sugaring season in New Hampshire will yield 90,000 gallons of syrup boiled from sap gathered from the state’s sugar maples. That roughly translates to $3.6 million in maple syrup sales.
The upcoming New Hampshire Maple Weekend involves much more than just watching sap being boiled down over hot fires in the state’s sugarhouses. Maple producers from Chester to Lempster and Keene to Lancaster have events planned that include everything from tours and demonstrations to horse-drawn hay rides, musical entertainment and hands-on activities.
Stonewall Farm, an educational and working farm on Chesterfield Road in Keene, will host a sap-gathering contest on Saturday, March 24, during which 20 teams will race along a course gathering sap in old buckets.
A number of local restaurants and inns also will offer maple-inspired menus for those guests with an insatiable sweet tooth.
Here are some of the venues planning events for New Hampshire Maple Weekend, March 24-25. A complete list of weekend events and the state’s sugarhouses, along with instructions on tapping your own trees and making your own syrup, can be found on the New Hampshire Maple Producers’ Web site, nhmapleproducers.com.
• Stonewall Farm, 242 Chesterfield Rd., Keene, 357-7278 or 352-0457, stonewallfarm.org. Tours, demonstrations, samples, sap gathering race, pony rides, hayrides and refreshments.
• Olkkola Farm, 30 Walker Rd., Ossipee, 539-3535, olkkolafarm.com. Open house with tours, demonstrations and refreshments including sugar on snow and maple sap-flavored coffee.
• The Maple Guys Sugar Shack, 146 Schoolhouse Rd., Lyndeborough, 888-627-5349 or 801-3158, mapleguys.com. 2005 and 2007 winner of the Carlisle Trophy for Best Maple Syrup in New Hampshire. Open house from noon to until 4 p.m. will include tours, demonstrations and refreshments including “maple dogs.”
• The Sugar Shack, 314 Route 4, Barrington, 1-800-57-MAPLE, maplesugarshack.net. Tours and demonstrations, all-you-can-eat-breakfasts, gift shops.
• Parker’s Maple Barn, 1316 Brookline Rd., Mason, 1-800-832-2308, parkersmaplebarn.com. Demonstrations, breakfast and lunch, gift shop.
• Maple Madness March hosted by the Bed and Breakfasts Inn Mount Washington Valley: A dozen of the region’s inns get together to host a weekend of inn-to-inn travel with a scavenger hunt for great prizes. Special package deals including maple-inspired cuisine are being offered. To view the inns included in the Maple Madness march or for more information visit bbinnsmwv.com and click on “events.”