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Celebrating the Maple Sugaring Season in New England

I don’t know about you but breakfast is my favorite meal. I love all foods associated with breakfast, eggs, fruit, bacon, sausage, bagels, pancakes, waffles, and yes, maple syrup. In our house, we’ll even eat breakfast for dinner. It’s like comfort on a plate. One of the reasons I love breakfast so much is the maple syrup. The rich, sweet, sticky, caramel goodness just can’t be matched.

Fun Fact: It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup.

To make the most of the maple season, which runs from late February till the end of March, you should plan on visiting at least a dozen sugar shacks. No, I’m not obsessed. Not at all!

Table of Contents

The History of Maple Syrup

Did you know that maple syrup is a North American product? Native Americans were making it prior to the colonist’s arrival. There are many legends about how the Native Americans first discovered sap but it is most likely from finding the frozen sap that clings to trees after a branch breaks off. The sap drips from the broken branch and as the water in the sap evaporates, the sugar freezes leaving a sweet treat.

However, learning how to use the maple sap took some time. At first, the Native Americans boiled maple sap with their meat. Since maple sap only flows for approximately one month a year the Native Americans found methods to store this sweet treat for use throughout the year.

Without metal bowls to boil that sap in, Native Americans added hot rocks to the sap they put in hollow logs. Native Americans were able to make three types of maple sugar from the sap. First ‘grain sugar’ is very similar to our brown sugar of today. Secondly, ‘cake sugar’ is the maple sugar hardened into blocks or cakes. This reminds me of the maple sugar candies we enjoy but I believe these blocks were much harder. Lastly, ‘wax sugar’ is what we call ‘sugar on snow’. This is what happens when you pour the thick syrupy goodness over snow. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a must.

Another method I read about says the Native Americans also would leave maple sap in large shallow bark bowls allowing it to freeze at night. Only to break off the ice the following day. After a few days of this, the remaining liquid becomes thick syrupy and sweet. I believe this works because it gets rid of the water from the sap just like boiling the sap does.

The Colonists get in on the Maple Syrup Game

The first documentation of European explorers and maple sugar is from the 1550s by the French explorer André Thévet. Later when the colonists came and settled North America they followed the Native American’s lead and spent the early spring in the woods harvesting this rich natural treasure.

boiling maple sap
photo credit: Sturbridge Village

In the late 1790s, a new method was developed to ‘tap’ the maple trees. Instead of the slash method of cutting the tree’s bark, a new technique of drilling a 1/2″ hole into the tree and using a hollowed-out sumac twig as a ‘spile’ or ‘spill’ was developed. This method is much healthier for the trees and is essentially the method we use today, albeit with different equipment.

Just like the Native Americans’s the colonists poured the thick syrup into wooden molded to harden into sugar blocks. It was important to them to have their own sugar and not buy sugar from the traders from the West Indies slave sugar plantations.

Sugar production was so important that even our third president, Thomas Jefferson started a plantation of sugar maples at his Monticello home. Although most of these trees die, due to the climate, the maple industry becomes stronger in New England.

Improvements to the Maple Syrup Industry

Since the discovery of maple sap and making maple sugar products there have been many improvements to the methods and equipment. However, non more so profound than the evaporator pan. This along with the use of the ‘spill’ which is much healthier for the tree has made making maple syrup into the industry it is today.

old way of boiling maple sap
Photo credit: Sturbridge Village

When to Visit the Sugar Shacks

Normally each state in New England hosts a maple weekend the 3rd or 4th weekend in March. This year will be a bit different. Most states are not doing a big celebration. However, the sugar shacks are still making their sweet goodness. Just call ahead to set up a private tour for your family.

One important thing to note is that maple sap flows when the days start to warm up but the nights are still cold. This year the weather is still cold as I’m writing this in early February. We generally say maple season is mid-February through the end of March but it really does depend on the weather. So keep an eye out and call ahead to see if the sugar houses are boiling their sap for you to come and see.

A little-known fact about maple syrup is that each state’s maple syrup does taste a bit different. Some people don’t notice that difference but others do. For some extra fun, buy maple syrup from a bunch of different sugar houses in different states. Then have your own tasting session at home. Then you get to decide which state and sugar house make the best maple syrup.

Here are some great sugar shacks listed by state for your perusing and tasting pleasure. Please remember to support the sugar houses by buying some of their products. Thank you.

Connecticut’s Sugar Shacks

On the Connecticut maple website, it says that the states maple weekend is scheduled for March 19th & 20th. However, it is always smart to call ahead and make a reservation at any sugar house.

River’s Edge Sugar House has open dates in February and March. Call ahead and reserve a tour to see this sugar house in action. They are planning to have approximately 2,500 taps this year so they will be able to make a lot of maple syrup.

They also produce honey on their farm. So be sure to stock up on both honey and maple syrup.

sugar house
photo credit: Great Brook Sugar House

The Great Brook Sugar House is a maple syrup operation run by a young organization in the town of Milford. It’s been 25 years since this program was started and it’s still going strong today. Stop by for a tour and a high school or college student can show you their operation. The students are very proud of their maply syrup.

boiling maple sap
photo credit: Great Brook Sugar House

Rhode Island’s Sugar Shacks

Call your favorite Rhode Island sugar house to make an appointment for a tour. I would highly recommend you purchase maple products from the sugar shacks. All farms need our support to keep going during these times.

Spring Hill Sugarhouse does generally open to the public for tours so definitely check back next year to see their operation for yourself. You can also check back with them in the fall to pick your own pumpkins, try your hand at their corn maze, and have some fresh-pressed apple cider.

Chepachet Farms & Sugar House will also give tours in the spring during the maple sugar season. In the meantime, check out their website and try their cinnamon maple syrup or walnut maple syrup. Both sound delicious to me. You can also try some of their award-winning recipes. The Maple Bacon Crack sounds divine!

If you are looking for more fun activities in Rhode Island check out our adventure with Rail Explorers while enjoying the scenery of Narragansett Bay.

Massachusetts’ Sugar Shacks

Massachusetts will have their weekend on March 19th & 20th. If you can’t make it that weekend call ahead to the sugar shack of your choice and get an appointment. I promise it will be worth the trip.

Maple Ledge Farm in Holland will be open on March 13th to show off all its maple products and process. They have maple syrup, maple candies, and maple cream. You should also check out their Facebook page. They give some really great recipes there.

maple syrup production
photo credit: Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Farm

Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Farm in the Berkshire’s make single-batch maple syrup. I’m sure their maple syrup is something special. Because they work with trees from their wild forest each batch of maple syrup is different. Early season will be different than mid-season which is again different from late season. There’s no doctoring of the syrup, nature’s making the unique flavor of these maple syrups. Be sure to try several varieties.

Mill Brook Sugarhouse in Lenox loves for their customers to come and visit during the sugaring season. They love to give tours of their sugarhouse. They sell maple syrup, maple straws, and maple sugar.

Vermont’s Sugar Shacks

This year Vermont is hosting two maple sugar weekends on March 19th & 20th and again on March 26th & 27th. This gives you plenty of opportunities to see a few sugar shacks around the state. And be sure to visit and buy their maple products.

Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock although they’re not giving tours they welcome their visitors into the evaporator room by family. Sugarbush Farm also makes their own cheeses. Don’t miss out, buy a block or two of cheese when you visit for the maple season. Who knows you might even see a new baby on the farm among their farm animals.

Green Mountain Sugar House offers so many products for you to choose from. Although you won’t see their maple syrup process it’s worth the stop. You can get all varieties of maple products from syrup to cream to brittle and more. You can also pick up Green Mountain Coffee and Vermont cheese.

However, there is something very special here that you shouldn’t miss, a maple creemee. If you don’t know what a creemee is, well you are in for a treat. It’s creamier than soft-serve with real maple syrup added to the milk base for a Vermont treat you are sure to love.

sugar maple trees

Bragg Farm Sugarhouse & Gift Shop in East Montpelier is offering maple tours and syrup tastings. Their gift shop is also open offering a wide variety of maple treats. Besides the traditional maple syrup, maple sugar, and maple candies they have maple truffles, maple taffy, maple leaf cookies, and maple kettle corn. Oh, and I forgot to mention they also have maple creemees, shakes, and sundaes.

For more fun in Vermont go and see some epic waterfalls we found as the defrost from the winter’s freeze.

New Hampshire’s Sugar Shacks

New Hampshire’s Maple weekend is March 19th & 20th. However, again they will continue with a maple month to bring in as many people as possible. This makes complete sense since on maple weekend hundreds of people would go to the sugar houses. Hopefully, this will spread out any crowds over the month of March.

Beaver Meadowbrook Farm Sugar House is happy to give tours to guests during the month of March. They do suggest calling ahead so they can accommodate you and your group. Their small sugar shack in the woods is what maple dreams are made of.

Blueberry Hill Sugarworks in Raymond will also give tours but asks that you call ahead. They also suggest you sample their cinnamon fused, vanilla bean, and their whisky aged barrel varieties of maple syrup. They sound yummy.

metal tap from a maple tree

Fuller’s Sugarhouse in Lancaster asks that you call ahead for a tour. They offer a full variety of maple products and in years passed they have done maple on snow during the maple weekend. This treat alone is worth driving out of your way for.

If you take this awesome White Mountain Road Trip you are sure to find many sugar shacks along the way.

Maine’s Sugar Shacks

Maine is still hosting their Maple Maple Sunday on March 27th but there will be fun the whole weekend. Be sure to check out a few different sugar shacks within the state.

Sweetwoods Farm in New Castle, you can call to see if they are ready for tours. They have a new collection tank for their production and if you’re lucky you will get a glimpse of their happy cows running around in their paddock.

Velvet Hollow Sugar Works which is part of Dunham Farm in Greenwood will be giving tours on Maple Sunday. You can also stop by at another time and have a treat in their treehouse. Now that would be super fun. This sugar shack really works for my family as they have a dedicated gluten-free kitchen in the sugar house. Stop by and enjoy fresh Maine blueberry gluten-free pancakes with their own maple syrup.

maple sap collection

Bacon Farm in Sidney will also be open and giving tours on Maple Sunday. One huge reason to visit Bacon Farm, well, besides the name is because they make maple whoopie pies!! How can you resist this sweet treat? They also have all the maple syrup, maple nuts, cream, and honey you can ever want.

While checking out the sugar shacks you can always stop by either Sunday River or Sugarloaf for some great spring skiing.

Nutritional Facts about Maple Syrup

Most people, including myself, just think of maple syrup as a sugary sweet treat. However, it is very healthy and good for us. I always knew the trees were good for us and this proves it.

nutritional chart

The nutritional value of maple syrup is better than that of honey. So the next time you need to sweeten a dish reach for the maple syrup instead of the sugar. You might just invent a new way to use maple syrup.

conversion chart

Maple Syrup by Color

You will see different colors of maple syrup. This doesn’t mean one is better than the other. The color has to do with when the sap was harvested, early in the season or late as well as how long it was boiled for.

syrup grades
These are the different grades of syrup

In our family, we prefer dark amber syrup. However, the lighter golden amber syrup would be great in whipped creams and in cocktails.

Save for Later

Maple syrup making
Maple Sugar Season in New England
maple syrup bottles
Come and celebrate Maple Sugar Season in New England

Final Thoughts

Although maple sugar season will be a bit different this year you can still enjoy this sweet treat of spring. Make sure to call ahead to any sugar house you plan to visit to make sure they are still open. Please always support the small farmers by buying at least one product from their shops. We really value our maple syrup farmers here in New England.

Have you gone to a sugar house? If so let me know where you went. I love to hear about it.

This Post Has 36 Comments

  1. Carina | bucketlist2life

    We love a good brinner! And we didn’t know that maple syrup is such a huge thing in New England so thanks for sharing!

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, the New England states have contests to see whose syrup is the best. It’s a lot of fun to try the different varieties.

  2. Lannie travels

    Omg!! I love everything about this post. Breakfast is my comfort food, and add a little sweet maple syrup? Perfection! I didn’t know there was a maple weekend!! It’s on the bucket list now. 🙂

    1. Leeanne

      That weekend is a lot of fun. You get to try all sorts of treats from the sugar shacks. They tend to pull out all the stops and really show off their goods.

  3. kmf

    This is an awesome overview of maple syrup! We visited a sugar house in Vermont when we lived there. So cool – and was amazed by the maple syrup process.

    1. Leeanne

      I love to watch the process. In fact, there’s a restaurant we really like in Mendon, Vermont that has its evaporate in the basement and the steam rises up through the open staircase and into the restaurant. I’ve no idea how they keep it clean but it’s super fun to eat breakfast there.

  4. Gabriela García

    This is a completely unknown world to me. I’m curious about maple. I’ve heard about maple in films, but I didn’t know what was it. Your post is a great lesson about it. Now, the only thing that remains, is to taste it.

    1. Leeanne

      Thanks, Gabriela. Yes, maple syrup is definitely a North American product. However, I would think you can order it where you live so you can enjoy it.

  5. Pam

    This post is super interesting. We have a few places nearby that host an annual syrup tapping festival – sadly it’s canceled this year, but I’ll try to check it out next year!

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure you will really enjoy it Pam. It’s really fun to see the sap flow and then the boiling process. Of course, with a festival there is generally tasting stations as well, which you can’t miss.

  6. Stacey Billingsley

    I love all your pictures of the trees with the spouts! It reminds me of Little House in the Big Woods. I would love to see this area one day, especially in the winter. It’s on my list!

    1. Leeanne

      That’s so funny that it reminds you of Little House in the Big Woods, when you see the old metal tins I think of that too.

  7. Tricia Snow

    I am all about real maple syrup! I would love to try this the next time I come up there!

    1. Leeanne

      You totally should. Warmer days and cold nights is when the sap flows. Come up in early March and have a blast.

  8. Jennifer

    I wondered how the maple syrup was extracted from the trees. Thank you for sharing the process.

    1. Leeanne

      The maple sap flows freely in the spring which is great for us.

  9. John

    I did not realize that maple syrup is healthier than honey. All these years of thinking it was a bad thing. Tomorrow it goes in my oats. Nor did I know that tours were such a big thing. Or this time of year is harvesting season. So all in all I really didn’t know much. Great guide.

    1. Leeanne

      It’s always great to learn a bit while we travel.

  10. Marianne

    We love maple syrup. There are quite a few farms in our area that produce maple products as well. I usually take the kids to a maple sugar festival at one of our provincial parks or conservation areas. They look forward to the pancake meal that is inevitable served. LOL

    1. Leeanne

      I don’t blame them a bit. I love when the sugar shacks have food out for the guests as well.

  11. Vinn

    I so love pancakes with maple syrup. Great to know the history and the nutritional value. The next time I won’t feel the sugar guilt. 😉

    1. Leeanne

      Absolutely, no need for the guilt. I too will add a bit of extra maple syrup next time.

  12. heather J jandrue

    I want to go to one! Do they only offer tours in March? We are headed to NH next weekend and would love to see one.

    1. Leeanne

      It is totally weather dependent. The days have to be above freezing but the nights still cold for the sap to start flowing. It’s still been too cold yet for sap to flow but it should start soon as next week will be in the 40s. This year March will be prime time.

  13. Lisa Manderino

    I had no idea this even existed! At the sugar shacks can you watch them process the sap into syrup?

    1. Leeanne

      Absolutely, they boil the sap in the sugar shacks. It’s a ton of fun to see the sap go from a clear liquid to thick maple syrup.

  14. Chantelle Kincy

    This was such a fascinating post! Now, I’m craving pancakes though 😂

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, well, then I’ve done my job.

  15. Barbara

    It’s a family tradition of ours to tap maple trees and make maple syrup also! We always had great fun in the sugar shack with Grandpa. He passed in January this year. His sons intend to continue the tradition with their children to teach them the process!

    1. Leeanne

      Thanks super cool that your family makes their own maple syrup.

  16. Trisha

    We have a local nature center that makes their own maple syrup! I can’t wait to take my kids there! Now I’m hungry for some pancakes! 😉

    1. Leeanne

      That’s awesome. I think kids really get a kick out of the whole process. And if they can have pancakes with some of the syrup at the end, all the better.

  17. Karen

    Love me some pure maple syrup! And loved this overview to learn more and celebrate maple syrup season in New England.

    1. Leeanne

      Thanks, Karen. I do love pure maple syrup too.

  18. Cindy

    What a fun first experience this would be for me! I’d love to visit the NE during maple sugaring season.

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure you would love it, Cindy.

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