Maine Maple Sunday
Last night, we were watching Bills Green’s Maine on WLBZ, and he had a segment on about visiting a maple sugar farm and talked a bit about Maple Sunday. Being new to Maine, we were intrigued and decided to spend our Easter Sunday on the hunt for “real” Maine maple syrup instead of Easter eggs. Maine Maple Sunday is held on the 4th Sunday of March each year. It usually doesn’t fall on Easter Sunday – in fact the last time that happened was 2008 and it won’t happen again until the year 2027.
This year, 97 sugarhouses participated throughout the state of Maine. They offered samples, held events, and shared how they make the syrup with delighted visitors. We decided to drive to Skowhegan to visit two sugarhouses, and we also stopped by a third “sugarshack” we drove past that belongs to a private resident who was proud to show me his set-up. I am happy to report that we were successful in our hunt, and came home with a freshly poured bottle of real Maine maple syrup!
First, we stopped at Tessier Farm in Skowhegan. In addition to maple syrup, they also sell fresh chicken and duck eggs, rabbit meat and fresh milk. Although they were already sold out of maple syrup by the time we got there, we did get to sample a batch that was just about ready, and we also got to try samples of their maple coffee and salted caramel sauce with apples (SO good!) – and left with a half gallon of fresh milk. They are a smallish syrup producer, and owner Jason Tessier told us that they hope for about 25 gallons of syrup each year, and tap 125-150 trees each year. We really enjoyed walking around their farm and seeing their animals, in addition to seeing their syrup set-up.
If you’re lucky enough to find some real maple syrup, you might want to try this Salted Maple Caramel recipe courtesy of Tessiers Farm. Salted Maple Caramel Ingredients 2 sticks butter 2 cups brown sugar 1/2 cup maple syrup 1 cup heavy cream 1/2 tsp salt Melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add maple syrup and heavy cream and stir until blended. Turn heat up and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, continuing to stir. Remove from heat, add the salt, and stir well. Pour into jars and cool. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy as a dip for apple slices or over ice cream.
Maple Leaf Farms
Next, we stopped at Maple Leaf Farms in Cornville. A much larger operation, they tapped 1,500 trees this year and have the capacity to tap up to 3,000. Fortunately, they still had bottles of syrup on the shelves, so we grabbed our “prize” after chatting with owner, Jay Libby, for a bit.
Private Maple Syrup Hobbyist
On the way home, we spied a cute little sugar shack at the edge of the woods and some metal buckets hanging on a few trees and just had to stop. The owner gladly stopped what he was doing to show me his set-up. He told me he has 50 taps and that’s enough to make maple syrup for the year for his family and friends.
It was fascinating to attend Maine Maple Sunday and chat with the two owners of the syrup farms, as well as the local man who makes syrup as a hobby. We learned that although maple trees grow worldwide, only conditions in north eastern North America are conducive to collecting the sap – and only between February and April of each year. Conditions must exist where nights are falling below freezing, but days remain above freezing. This is what causes the sap to flow up and down the trunk of the trees and allows it to be tapped. Red, black and sugar maple trees can all be tapped for sap, and it takes roughly 35-40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
The process of making maple syrup which has been done for centuries, consists basically of tapping the trees, collecting the maple sap and then just pouring it into a vat and boiling it down so the water is released in the form of stream and the resulting reduced liquid becomes maple syrup. Pure maple sap is about 2% sugar, thin and clear. Maple syrup is an amber or golden color and about 67% sugar.
This might have been our first Maine Maple Sunday, but it won’t be our last. It was a unique way to spend Easter, but one we will not soon forget. Now, I think it’s time to make some fluffy pancakes from scratch!