Maple Weekend

Almost forgot I had a blog! It’s been way too long. I was…hibernating? Stuck in the snow slash my clinical rotation slash didn’t have any fun food adventures to really write about? Excuses aside, I’m back.

I couldn’t spend a year in NH and not visit a sugar house at least once, so I managed to check that one off my bucket list today. Turns out, such a field trip is rather tricky to coordinate. Tapping trees and boiling sap is very weather dependent, as I’ve now learned, so I had to follow weather.com closely for the last couple days leading up to this weekend. And even so, I still had to call various nearby sugar houses multiple times (including the morning of) to confirm they were boiling today. Lots of homework involved! Also, I’m pretty sure the phone numbers listed on the NH Maple Producers website were people’s personal cell phone numbers…the few who answered didn’t seem like they were used to getting 9am touristy phone calls like mine. However, props to Charles from Old Pound Road Sugar House who, after I called at 9am inquiring about their operations, later texted me to let me know what time the sap was going to run out #customerservice. This is how I know I was definitely calling people’s cell phone numbers…awk.

The New Hampshire Maple Producers Association (yes, it’s a thing) hosts Maple Sugaring Month from March 14- April 5. Due to various past busy weekends, today (April 4) was the first weekend that worked for most of our schedules. The plan was to visit 2-3 depending on how long we took at each sugar house. Unfortunately, despite all the planning, we really only had a thorough visit at one sugar house. But better than nothing I suppose!DSC_0027

We visited Clark’s Sugar House in Langdon, NH, which was about a 35 minute drive from Keene through some windey, pot-hole covered, GPS/cell-service dropped roads. It’s pretty hard to miss a sugar house as you drive by; if they’re currently boiling, the plumes of steam waft up into the air and can be seen from some distance.

Hard to tell where the steam stops and the clouds begin.

Hard to tell where the steam stops and the clouds begin.

Once we walked into the sugar house, we were immediately greeted with fresh maple syrup samples. There is little to no resemblance between the real stuff and Aunt Jemima/other processed syrups we’re so accustomed to. I didn’t grow up eating much syrup, but this tasted nothing like the syrup I have had–this was light and sweet, but not sickeningly so.

Maple syrup shots. Cheers!

Maple syrup shots. Cheers!

The trees had already been tapped so unfortunately we missed that whole part of the process.

These are just some of the many lines that bring the tapped syrup to the house to be boiled.

These are just some of the many lines that bring the tapped syrup to the sugar house to be boiled.

But they were boiling the sap, so we embraced the maple-scented steam/facial and watched the workers load wood into the wood-fire burning machine.

Seriously, a maple-facial.

Seriously, a maple-facial.

 

Old-school wood-burning

Old-school wood-burning

Learning some of the tricks of the trade

Learning some of the tricks of the trade. This device helps them figure out the sugar percentage. The more sugar, the more the stick floats.

The viscosity shows that it needs to keep boiling to thicken.

The viscosity shows that it needs to keep boiling to thicken.

In addition to the machinery, it was fascinating just looking around the smallish room, which served as a sort of makeshift maple syrup museum for the Clark family. Memorabilia and old, retired tools were scattered around the walls and ceiling, leaving little to no wall space bare. It was really neat to see all the old taps and buckets used.

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They also had lined up all the different syrup batches they’ve made so far this year; the variations in color/grade were made so apparent with this visual.

Just the weather can change the color/grade of the syrup.

Just the weather can change the color/grade of the syrup.

They were of course selling their own syrup, as well as candies made with their maple syrup.

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In addition to making and selling maple syrup, the Clark family also has a bison farm! We continued up the muddy road a bit further and came across them, just chilling by the fence. No bison burgers today, but I believe some other Maple Weekend they may have been offering burgers to visitors. Oh well.

Jen and Abby making friends.

Jen and Abby making friends.

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From there, the GPS took us to our next stop, Grassy Brook Maple, but, despite my having called just this morning to confirm they were going to be boiling today, we arrived there and the machine was off. Womp womp. But the owner was nice enough to give us 10 minutes of his time to explain his machine/process with us.

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We didn’t get a super comprehensive tour, so I referred to this Kitchn article about VT maple syrup (about a sugar house in Brattleboro, also about a half hour away from Keene!) for some background info.

Field trip

Field trip

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