In Maine, the fourth Sunday of March is “Maple Sunday”. Sugar houses all over the state open their doors to let anyone who wants to come in and smell the syrup! Since Maple Sunday happened to fall on Easter this year, Rice Farms in Walpole offered an event on Saturday as well. We were able to double our experience by attending events there on Saturday and at Goranson Farm in Dresden on Sunday.Rice Farms had built a new sugar house this year and this was it’s first season. There were plenty of visitors for hot dogs, baked beans, maple cake, pancakes with syrup and horse drawn wagon rides. We were impressed with the turnout for this event – people actually show up!
Adam, the owner of Rice Farms, showed us the process and equipment. They use wood to heat the sap to it’s boiling point. He said: on average it takes 40 gallons of sap to boil down to one gallon of syrup! Yikes! No wonder the stuff is so expensive in the store! Amber got in on the act, pumping some water for the horses – the old fashioned way.
Horses ready to take the kiddos for a ride – of course, we jumped on there too.
Lee never misses a chance to get into a tree or a picture. He could not pass up a chance to do both at the same time!
Maine is the third largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S. behind Vermont and then New York. Maple syrup is only produced in northeast North America, primarily in Canada and in the U.S. from Wisconsin to New England. The Goranson Farm event on Sunday included wagon rides too, as well as live music, sales of their certified organic produce, and lots of treats to try including maple milk, maple ice cream sundaes and goodies from a local bakery. This was a fun event and Amber really got into learning the process of making maple syrup.
Conditions have to be just right in the spring to collect the sap – nights in the 20’s and days in the 40’s. Most collection these days is done via drip lines into barrels but there are still the old fashioned buckets around, primarily for ambiance.
We have seen maple candy for sale all over the state and there was plenty here of course.
Nice, folksy live music for people to listen to and enjoy their maple sundaes – we certainly soaked it up as well.
Can you see the difference in the color?
The farm has been in the family for generations and producing maple syrup since the 70’s. The owner gave us the details on the boiling down process, production, grading and bottling. Early in the season the percentage of natural sugar is high so the sap does not have to be boiled as long to reach the standard sugar content for sale as syrup. This results in a sweet tasting light colored syrup. Later in the season the percent of sugar is lower and the sap must be boiled longer to reach the same standardized sugar content. This results in a darker color and a stronger maple flavor. (An article by Food 52 explains that this grading system in the US has only been around since 2014.) One of the benefits of being well traveled is learning to appreciate quality in things like fine, cheese, wine, and maple syrup!
The farm had multiple green houses already hard at work getting a head start on spring.
Lee thinks he looks pretty awesome on one of these.
Amber had to get in on the action too.