The weekend of the Sugar Shack open houses always takes me by surprise. This past weekend (March 19 & 20) was the official Maple Syrup Producers Open House. I have missed going for many years because I had no one to go with and it’s just not fun to go alone, but I recently ran out of real maple syrup (the only kind I will eat) and needed to buy some. It turned out that my daughter and her boyfriend were over on Sunday to have dinner and my daughter mentioned seeing the sign at Old Pound Road for syrup. And, believe it or not she wanted to go! She doesn’t like the real syrup so I figured she wouldn’t care about it, but we ended up going and I got myself a quart of syrup for $20.
We went to a Sugar House that we visited a few years ago, run by Charles Levesque on Old Pound Road in Antrim, New Hampshire. He had quite a crowd and we waited outside for the first group of people to leave and then went inside where he had a big fire going under his reducing pan (not the official name of it – but the place where the sap gets boiled down- I think it’s an evaporator pan) and he passed out little, hot cups of fresh syrup to try, along with muffins made with syrup instead of sugar. We watched as he poured a huge pan of syrup into a big strainer and then sat down to fill the plastic bottles that he sells. He answered questions while we ate muffins and got sticky tasting the samples and then we bought our bottles and left. I bought a bottle of Grade A Dark Amber because I like the dark syrup for it’s strong maple flavor, but of course I will eat any! I am spoiled and won’t touch the “fake” stuff any more.
The syrup is graded according to its coloring and at the beginning of the season (Feb.-April around here, depending on the weather) it is lighter and that is the Grade A Light Amber and as the season progresses the grading changes. Read more here about the syrup grades in NH.
Most people recognize the buckets hanging on trees to collect sap, but if you are driving around and see these funny looking plastic tubes coming out of trees – that would be another way of collecting sap that uses gravity to run it into big buckets.
It’s quite a job and it has a short season. As Mr. Levesque pointed out, the seemingly high price of real maple syrup does not make the Sugar Shack owners rich. For all the hours spent and supplies needed he said he ends up making around very little money…. I can’t remember what he said, but I think it was around $2.oo an hour.
I don’t eat pancakes very often, but I use the syrup as a sweetener for my tea. And I think I will try making some muffins.
I also found out that he sells his syrup at the Antrim Market until he runs out, usually around August.
If you are interested, read this post by some people who are making their own maple syrup from trees in the yard house.