How Sweet It Is
by Ramona Flightner/@ramonaflightner
Recently, I traveled to New Hampshire for sugaring season. I have written about it before on my blog and I wanted to return again this year to go on “sap runs” with my cousin. I enjoy being in the middle of the forests, away from the city, as the winter slowly gives way to spring.
This year, when I arrived, my cousin warned me that it appeared I had visited one week too early. The sap wasn’t running well yet, and it looked like it would start running the following week. I was undeterred as I was happy to be in the woods, away from it all. However, on the first day contrary to expectations, we managed to fill the truck’s entire tank with sap. It holds around 700 gallons, but when it is boiled down, all that sap will only produce about 17 gallons of syrup. It makes me realize just how much sap is collected on the years they produce 2000 gallons of syrup!
Part of the reason I enjoy going on sap runs with my cousin John is that, as we drive along the back roads of the very western part of New Hampshire, he tells me about the old buildings and history of the area. Very rarely he will throw in a tall tale to keep me on my toes. I learn about old dairy farms, the prison that is now defunct, the railroad that used to come through and connect the region with a web of small lines and tracks. There is always a new story to be told and appreciated and I enjoy deciphering the malarkey from the truth.
The second day we went on another sap run. It had been colder the night before and the day was warming up nicely. As we approached one of the collecting vats, I heard a tinkling sound like a small babbling brook makes and knew the sap was running. It is always a thrill to take the cover off the vat and see the sap flowing freely into it. The sap was nice and clear, and would probably boil down to fancy grade maple syrup. We filled up about half the tank before heading back to the sugar house. En route, we received a call from John’s partner who was looking for more sap to boil.
I love walking into the evaporating room and being enveloped in the smells and sounds of the room. The sweet maple syrup smells heavenly. The partners have a reverse osmosis machine, which allows the process to progress more quickly and use less fuel. It is a very complex system of pipes in and out which I don’t understand, and I prefer to stand toward the end of the process near the evaporating pans and the small pitcher they have set out for samples. The day I visited the syrup being boiled was fancy and it was delicious.
It is maple sugaring time this month in New England. If you have a chance to escape into nature and go to a sugaring house, I would highly recommend it. If you are in Westmoreland, N.H., you can visit my cousin and his partner at Stuart and John’s Sugar House.