FRYEBURG, Maine — Despite getting off to a slow start, with the arrival of more springlike temperatures last weekend, the delayed sap season is at last underway, according to local producers interviewed Sunday.
Syrup producers like temperatures in the low 40s during the day and in the 20s at night.
With the cold winter and spring, the sap has been slow to start, said George Weston of Rivercroft Farm on the banks of the Saco in Fryeburg.
“I tapped my silver maples in mid-February, but most of the time, it’s just been too cold,” said Weston, as visitors stopped by the family’s sugarhouse as part of Maine Maple Sunday, held the fourth Sunday in March by the Maine Maple Producers Association for the past 34 years.
It will be tough to match last year’s output, which was a good year, noted Weston’s son, John Weston, who manned the sap boiling chores.
The Westons do it the old-fashioned way, tapping trees and collecting buckets of the sap.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Grades are sold in golden color/delicate taste, amber color/rich taste, dark color/robust taste and very dark color/strong taste. On Sunday at Weston’s, employees offered free tastes of vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup.
Also among the sugarhouses hosting visitors last weekend as part of New Hampshire Maple Weekend was Nate and Kate’s Maple Products Sugar House on Green Hill Road in Chatham.
Nate and Kate Hutchins handed out maple bacon ice cream produced by Sherman Farm of East Conway, topped with maple crumble and maple syrup. They sold maple syrup, maple cream and maple sugar and also served some of their specialty maple ice cream.
Ten percent of last Saturday’s sales were donated to the Chatham Historical Society.
The handicap-accessible sugarhouse was built by Nate in 2014, with an evaporator adding to the technological improvements there.
“I’ve been sugaring my whole life — my grandfather had a farm here,” Nate said. “I bought the evaporator first, and added other equipment. including the firebox, which is about 15 years old — I bought it used from a guy in New York. I bought the pans new from Wisconsin; the hood was made in Vermont. We’ve just been picking at it ever since,” said Nate as he held his toddler son, Abel.
In the back room, he showed off his reverse osmosis machine. “We take 2 or 2.5 percent sap, and this osmosis machine makes it 15 percent,” said Hutchins.
“We have 25 inches of vacuum drawing on the tubing in the trees,” said Hutchins. “It takes the water out and makes it more efficient. It allows me to make 100 gallons of syrup to a cord of wood — I used to make 25 gallons to a cord of wood. So it’s really good.”
He agreed that the season has been off to a slow start. “We need like three weeks of this week’s weather. If we do, it will be great,” said Hutchins, whose daytime job is at K and W Aggregates of Brownfield, Maine. “We’re trying to make 200 gallons — that’s the goal. Last year, we got pretty close to that, 170.”
New Hampshire Maple Month continues weekends at participating sugarhouses through March 31. (Call for hours.) Local sugharhouses include: 100 Acre Wood Sugar Shack, 41 Observatory Way, Intervale (603-356-9980); Bisson’s Sugar House, 68 Cates Hill Road, Berlin (603-752-1298); Black Mountain Sugarhouse, 266 Black Mountain Road, Jackson (603-986-6111); Brooks Family Sugar House, 427 Eaton Road, Freedom (603-539-2153); Eldridge Family Sugar House, 151 Plains Road, West Ossipee (603-986-1830); Meadow View Sugarhouse, 141 Wakefield Road, Union (603-842-0416); Mooney Hill Maple’s, 375 Mooney Hill Road, Madison (603-662-2775); Nate and Kate’s Sugarhouse, 2102 Green Hill Road, Chatham (firstname.lastname@example.org); Notch View Farm Sugar House, 2427 Main Road, Chatham (603-694 2068); Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm, 58 Cleveland Hill Road, Tamworth (603-323-7591); Sap House, 67 Old Portland Road, Eaton (603-447-3994); SP’s Sugar Shack, 150 Valley Road, Center Ossipee (603-539-7382); The Rocks, 4 Christmas Lane, Bethlehem (603-444-6228); Turkey Street Maples, 73 Turkey St., Chocorua (603-323-9320); Young Maple Ridge Sugarhouse, 301 Wing Road, Sandwich (603-662-9934). For more information, go to nhmapleproducers.com or mainemapleproducers.com.