It seems strange to be writing about sugaring season in the middle of snow squall. But until recently, a series of warm days and cool nights has brought the sap collectors and boilers out of their homes.
According to the New England Maple Museum, maple sugaring has been an early Spring tradition in New England for centuries. Imagine being the first native American to discover that maple sap cooked over an open fire produces a sweet sugar!
An old Iroquois legend describes the accidental discovery of the sugar-making process. A hunter returned to his dwelling and found an enticing sweetness in the air around the kettle in which his mate was boiling meat. The fluid in the kettle, he learned, was sap and had been collected beneath a broken maple limb.
So many years later and the techniques for gathering and cooking are essentially unchanged, as are the maple products themselves — unless you count some of the stranger concoctions. And of course, enjoying these treats is one of the relatively few ways we’re still able to share in the life of the early settlers.
If you want to learn more about this classic New England tradition, the annual Maple Weekend coming up this weekend, March 23-24, presents the perfect opportunity. Eight sugar houses in Belknap County alone will be open to the public and have plenty of fresh maple syrup and products for you to enjoy. Some locations are offering pancake breakfasts, petting farms and entertainment.
You will also find many books about maple sugaring at the library. Here’s a list to get you started that includes recipe books, historical background, children’s books and stories, and even a novel:
The maple season is short but sweet. So check out a book from the library, visit a sugar house, make some pancakes at home with fresh maple syrup, or try some delicious maple candy!