Sweet gifts from the New Hampshire woods.
By Mel Allen
Feb 22 2022
In the Chichester woods, sap boiling gets under way at Matras Maple Farm, started 20 years ago by brothers Willie and Asa Matras.Photo Credit : Jenn Bakos
From the last days of February into the early weeks of March, when we see smoke curling above Morning Star Maple, a modest red-roofed building just east of Yankee’s offices in Dublin, New Hampshire, we know that John and Karen Keurulainen have started boiling off their maple sap—a signal that even with snow lingering in the woods, one season is losing steam and another is soon to arrive. What began more than 30 years ago as the couple’s self-described “hobby” has grown to 4,000 taps on maple trees in nearby small towns. During sugaring season they will work seemingly never-ending days collecting sap in a massive stainless steel tank, then letting heat and time evaporate the water until what remains is an amber liquid whose singular flavor has been treasured by generations stretching back to indigenous peoples.
No matter where you travel throughout the state in March, you’re likely to come across a sugarhouse with smoke rising from its chimneys—some 350 maple sugar farmers belong to the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association, and this is their defining time. Some still collect by hand in woods where metal taps drip sap into buckets; many others have set up miles of tubing that spiral like arteries through the forest, delivering sap straight to their sugarhouses, letting gravity do the work.
A number of sugarhouses open their doors to visitors during March Maple Month. Inside, you breathe an aroma found nowhere else, the elemental alchemy of boiling sap and steam. Some will offer pancakes and waffles with the freshest maple syrup possible sitting beside the table. Go ahead, pour, and ask for seconds.
There will also be syrup for sale. Take home a pint (or more) and know the sweetest gift a forest can offer. Once you do, any substitute will pale by comparison.
To find a New Hampshire sugarhouse or to learn more about March Maple Month, go to nhmapleproducers.com.