By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
Short and sweet, New Hampshire’s maple season is finally here.
Cold nights, warm days and cold nights are what it takes to get the sap moving in the maple trees and the timing is perfect for an event scheduled Friday when Gov. Chris Sununu will officially kick off March Maple Month at Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm in Temple.
Come along or plan a road trip to the Mount Washington Valley for a daytrip or weekend getaway for all-things maple at Zeb’s General Store in North Conway or sip a cup of ginger beer with a drop of maple syrup on top at Black Cap Grille or better still a White Mountain Mule cocktail with vodka distilled nearby in Tamworth.
Sununu tweeted his excitement for the annual maple festivities Tuesday posting a photo of his youngest in tow to drill holes into the maple trees behind their home. They hung buckets awaiting the sweet flow of sap on a blue-sky day when the temperatures rose into the 50s.
“Was up bright and early this morning with Leo to tap the first few maple trees outside the house,” Sununu said on Twitter. “Warmer weather is on the way and the syrup’s about to start flowing.”
The weather has been pretty cold up until this week and many maple syrup producers have been waiting for a bit of a thaw to produce this year’s crop. Last year about 159,000 gallons were produced in the Granite State by about 350 producers large and small.
Last year produced a typical amount of sugar, but it was anything but a typical year for the annual maple month in which many producers open their small operations to visitors.
Even though this is yet another year of COVID-19 concerns, maple producers are deciding on the rules for swinging their doors open and those who are, are asking people to wear masks as is required by state emergency mandate until at least the last week of March.
But there is hope that people this year can safely buy their locally made products in person.
New Hampshire’s cultural heritage is tied to maple, a tradition that continues long after settlers learned of the rich brown liquid from the indigenous people. New Hampshire is one of only a handful of states and provinces in the world where the syrup is made from the sap of maple trees.
The largest producer by far is Eastern Quebec with 70 percent of the world’s maple production. Vermont is the largest U.S. producer. It was used by abolitionists during the Civil War because they refused to buy sugar made from slave labor in the south. It was used as well in World War II as a substitute for the cane product when it was rationed.
During Maple Month, New Hampshire will celebrate with activities coordinated by the NH Maple Producers Association.
Many New Hampshire sugarhouses will be open for visitors, with some setting up appointments, but it’s still best to contact the sugarhouse directly before making the trip. A list of participating sugarhouses is available at New Hampshire Maple Producers Association https://nhmapleproducers.com/
If you travel to the Mount Washington Valley, have a look at some ideas from the Chamber of Commerce to help direct your maple fun.
Sweet Maple Café in Conway for maple pumpkin muffins, maple pecan danish, maple walnut scones and maple syrup atop pancakes and French toast.
White Mountain Cider Company in Glen for roasted winter vegetables with maple sage butter topped off with Champlain Orchards’ Mac & Maple Semi-Sweet Hard Cider or a Lil Mapley In Mexico cocktail made with Tres Agaves Anejo, Amontillado Sherry, maple syrup, and bitters, the White Mountain Cupcakery in North Conway’s Settlers Green for their signature maple bacon cupcakes, available on Wednesday and Sunday’s only, Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub for steaks and ribs, but maple connoisseurs may gravitate toward the chicken & waffles dish including a buttermilk and sea salt brined boneless fried chicken breast atop a Belgium malt waffle with jalapeno coleslaw all finished with a maple glaze, Veno’s Specialty Foods & Meats in Conway for a pasta salad with Italian dressing made with maple syrup and maple chipotle wings, maple smokehouse wings, Tuckerman’s chicken, maple mustard chicken, maple bacon sausage and maple chipotle steak tips. The maple is from Tamworth’s Mac’s Maple, and Soyfire Candle in North Conway Village for two maple fragranced soy candles.
Ski the Maple Villa Ski Trail:
Ski with Backcountry Alliance to get the full explanation of the Maple Villa trail and its significance.
Enjoy a Romantic Maple Sugaring Getaway at Snowvillage Inn, March 26-28:
Maple Month at the 100-Acre Wood Sugar Shack, Intervale:
Get an up close and personal view of how maple syrup is made. The 100-Acre Wood Sugar Shack is open and welcoming visitors (masks required) on March weekends.