It’s that time of year again in New Hampshire—sugaring season! Those of us who grew up dowsing our pancakes and waffles with maple syrup know that there’s really no substitute for the “real” thing.
Thankfully, locally made maple syrup is readily available from a plethora of producers both small and large—there’s more than 350 sugaring operations in our state alone, according to the New Hampshire Maple Sugar Producers Association. In honor of “Maple Month,” my family and I visited Stuart & John’s Sugar House and Restaurant in Westmoreland to get a taste of locally-made maple syrup.
From Tree to Table
Maple syrup is sometimes called “liquid gold,” and it’s not hard to see why—each drop of syrup is incredibly precious when one considers what it takes to make that final product. I asked John Matthews (the “John” in Stuart & John’s) how much sap is required to make a gallon of syrup, and he said that it can vary year by year based on the sugar content of the sap, but on average the ratio is about 40:1!
Given the sheer quantity of sap needed to produce even a small amount of syrup, it’s not surprising that many sugar houses no longer rely solely on the “old-fashioned” method of spile and bucket. If you spend any time on the forested back roads of New Hampshire this time of year, you’re bound to notice the miles and miles of rubber tubing that connect one sugar maple to another and drain into large holding tanks.
Although there’s still plenty of work involved in tapping the trees and checking the lines, technological advances in the industry have made sugaring easier and more fruitful. And, of course, collecting the sap is just the first step in the process. What follows is hours and hours of babysitting the sap until all the excess water is steamed off in the evaporator.
A Sweet Success
Stuart Adams and John Matthews erected their first sugar house in 1974, when they were still teenagers. From those humble beginnings they have built a very successful maple sugar business. Stuart and his wife Robyne also operate his family’s restaurant, where patrons can enjoy a hearty breakfast topped with Stuart & John’s own maple syrup—guests can even watch the syrup being made right on site during sugaring season!
My son loves Stuart & John’s special teddy bear pancakes, while my husband prefers his pancakes with chocolate chips and ice cream. After our meal, my son and I visited the evaporation room where John told us all about how the syrup is made and stored. And, of course, we couldn’t leave without taking home a bottle of Stuart & John’s own maple syrup. Now we can savor the sweetness of the sugaring season all year long, thanks to the hard work of our local producers.
Get a Taste of the Action
Maple Month culminates on March 24-25th when sugar houses around the state participate in the Annual Maple Weekend. During this special time, maple sugar producers open their doors and allow the public to see, firsthand, how maple syrup is made. To find a sugar house near you, visit www.NHMapleProducers.com.