The Hunter family, who live just down the road from me, have been producing maple syrup on the same property for seven generations – since 1850. When you can see steam coming from the saphouse you know it’s open to the public – they welcome visitors and invite you to watch how maple syrup is made. In addition to the homemade doughnuts and syrup-tasting, it’s worth the trip simply to see the saphouse itself … because other than the big shiny boiler inside, it’s like a step back in time.
The sugar maple is the main source of sap, and it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. The trees are tapped in late February; a hole is drilled into the tree and a spout driven into the hole. A bucket is hung to collect the sap, which begins to flow when temperatures begin to rise above freezing during the day but fall below freezing at night. It runs intermittently over the next 4-6 weeks until the weather warms and the buds begin to form on the trees.
The steam, the smells, the roar of the boiler, the mud … ahhh, spring in New Hampshire.