Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Maple Month in NH

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist at the Concord Food Co-op

Did you know that March in New Hampshire is Maple Month and last weekend was Maple Weekend? The weather was looking a little iffy last Saturday, so I suggested to my husband that we go find some warmth inside a sugar shack. I looked up the Maple Weekend 3 map as supplied by the NH Maple Producers Association, Inc. and pinned a trail for the afternoon.

Our first stop was at a farm that supplies the Concord Food Co-op with organic vegetables all year round, Kearsarge Gore Farm in Warner. The drive there took us past Vegetable Ranch in Warner, the home to the Co-op’s very own hoop house and annual Farm Festival event, too. You can’t miss the yellow and purple sign out front of the hoop house.

The drive to Kearsarge Gore Ranch is not one for those who don’t like a little ice and mud. When you think of a farm being off the grid, Kearsarge Gore Farm really is off the grid, using solar panels for electricity.  As the roads got narrower and icier, the snow started to fall but we made it there in one piece parking off to the side as the lot was full. This must be the place to go to get your maple syrup. But as we were getting out of the truck, a few people were already heading back to the parking lot; I hope there is syrup left for me!
Kearsarge Gore Farm Sugar Shack

We were greeted by a friendly black dog wearing an orange bandana who led the way down the icy path to the sugar shack. From the outside, wood was stacked to the rafters and smoke lazily drifted down scenting the air. There was the sound of some kind of hostile machine coming from within, curious we walked into the dark opening to see a huge and shiny contraption with a friendly operator ready to explain how the sap running through the lines from the surrounding trees will end up on my pancakes tomorrow morning.

Our obliging guide was Bob, one half of the duo that own and operates Kearsarge Gore Farm with the help of a few more crew members. I am not sure I can explain the whole process without you actually seeing the evaporator machine in person, so I will leave that up to Bob to tell you if you are lucky enough to visit during boiling. But I will tell you that the generous sample of maple sugar I tried was heavenly on my tongue as it melted away and the syrup was the perfect sweetness to drizzle on crispy bacon or over vanilla bean ice cream, mmmm, just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
Kearsarge Gore Farm Sugar Shack Boiler

After Bob showed us the basic functions of the different parts of the evaporator, he had to hurry away to fill the boiler with wood to keep the process going. This year the weather during March has not been very co-operative for making syrup. The days and nights have been too cool and many of the sugar maker’s mentioned they have only produced 1/3 of what they had accomplished last year. I made sure to stock up and grabbed myself a bottle of the sweet syrup.
Kearsarge Gore Farm Sugar Shack

After we left Kearsarge Gore Farm we stopped at a couple more sugar shacks to sample different grades of maple syrup. Did you know that you may prefer the taste of a different grade of syrup? The grades happen naturally as the trees get ready for their spring budding and this changes the color and taste of the syrup. We also had the pleasure of tasting maple popcorn, maple cotton candy, various nuts glazed in maple syrup, and even some maple coffee! Maple Month is a great way to meet our local farmers and sample their products; many produce more than just our favorite breakfast syrup. Depending on the weather some farms even have spring lambs to watch playing or wagon rides through the mud (it really is mud season here!) There is one more weekend to enjoy the open houses on the Maple Month trail; you can check the map out, click here!