Tuesday, March 31, 2015

All Natural Sweets

Beautiful snow-covered fields at Chase Farms as we return from checking out the sugar maples
Heading out to see the tapped trees

Since this is Chris’ first winter in New England, I wanted to share with him some typically New England experiences. So, when we went up to New Hampshire to visit my sister Dianne and her spouse Ellen, we headed out to a sugar house to see how maple syrup is made. Luckily, it was Maple Weekend, so many of the sugar houses were open with special events going on. We ended up at Chase Farms in Wells, Maine. What fun! There was a bite in the air and snow on the ground, but it was nice and warm inside where they had lots of tasty maple treats for sale. Can you say “warm donut with maple icing”? The temperature was below freezing that day and it was snowing a bit, but they had collected sap during the week, when it was warmer, so they had the wood-fired evaporator going full tilt. For those of you who think that all maple syrup is made by Mrs. Butterworth, here’s the full process. In late winter, they tap the sugar maple trees by drilling a hole about 1.5 inches deep and inserting a spigot (Chase Farms uses blue plastic spigots like in the picture). Hang a bucket on the handy hook, add a metal cover to keep out debris, and wait for the weather to warm and the sap to run. They collect the sap, which is clear and the consistency of water, and boil it down into syrup. It takes 40-45 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. That’s a lot of trees to bleed! We took a horse-drawn wagon ride out to see some of their trees, and Rick the driver tapped a tree for us to see. Later in the day we visited a winery and bought a bottle of maple liquor made with local syrup. More sweet deliciousness!

Lots of buckets on the sugar maples

Plastic spigot used to collect the sap
Boiling the sap in the wood-fired evaporator