It’s maple sugaring time again and so far the weather has been mostly cooperating for local producers and their taps. Folsom’s Sugar House in Chester, run by Brian and Sue Folsom, opened for the first time this season on Saturday, Feb. 23. They had their first boiling day earlier in the month and so far the season is going well, said Brian.
This coming month is the busiest of the year for syrup producers, and a stop in to Folsom’s any weekend this month will likely find the evaporator running. This year had a slightly later boiling start than they had last year, said Folsom, but how well the season goes is only known after the season comes to a close. Last year Folsom’s Sugar House had a good year and they’re hoping to replicate that success.
“It was a typical start for us,” said Folsom, taking time away from customers in his quaint sugar house at 130 Candia Road. It’s not just boiling and making sure that sugar content is right at Folsom’s, it’s also a place where people come to learn more about the process and see a traditional craft at work in their own backyard.
Folsom said that earlier in the day a couple came up from Massachusetts with their 2-year-old daughter. The family had recently read a book and learned about sugaring, and the parents wanted to show their little one the process in action. So though Folsom wasn’t boiling. he took the family out to a tree tap and showed them how it starts. Folsom was impressed with the little girl’s knowledge, as she pointed out a hydro meter.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Folsom about his second job as a maple sugaring tour guide. Folsom said many people love to come in to the sugar house to see sugaring in action, but there are also plenty of people who just stop by to say hello, get their gallon and move on. Down the road in Sandown, Dave Dupouy and Dave Bassett have also been busy boiling their own sap. It’s a smaller operation than Folsom’s but the requirements are the same: cold nights and warm days to get the sap flowing well. From there, it’s a fairly precise process to turn it into table syrup. Warm days of 40 degrees coupled with cold nights in the 20s are ideal to get the sap flowing.
The Daves have a couple hundred taps on trees all around Sandown and Hampstead and make about 50 gallons of syrup a year. Dupouy has been working with Bassett for a few years, but Bassett, who lives in Hampstead, has been at the work for many years They call their product “‘Daves Maple Syrup” and sell it largely to friends, neighbors, a couple breakfast places and by word of mouth.
It’s not particularly profitable, joked Dupouy, but it’s a lot of fun all the same. Plus, it tastes awfully good on ice cream, he said. The two work out of a sugar house that Dupouy, a carpenter by trade, built at his 72 Odell Road property. On boiling days you can see the steam rising from the roof and that tells you when a good time to stop in and see the Daves is. Folsom’s boasts about 500 taps across Chester, and with an evaporator that can boil 60 to 70 gallons of sap into 1 to 1.5 gallons of syrup in an hour, in a good season can make a lot of syrup.
This time of year sugar producers are making either Light or Medium Amber syrup. There are three grades of syrup – Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber or Grade A Dark Amber. According to Folsom’s website, Grade A Light is the most delicately maple flavored, Grade A Medium has a rich maple flavor and Grade A Dark has a robust maple flavor. These standards are set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of New Hampshire Department of Agriculture.
Folsom’s not only produces syrup for the table but a number of other maple products as well, including maple candy, taffy and sugar. For sale from other producers they have Ledge Top Maple BBQ Sauce, Sunnyside’s Maple Mustard, Sunnyside’s Maple Seasoning, Hutchinson’s Maple Popcorn and Maple Coffee Cake Mix. Folsom’s keeps the public up to date with their goings-ons through its website, www.folsomsugarhouse.com. There you can find out when they’re boiling, how the season is going and other facts about maple sugaring. Sue Folsom keeps a blog about how the trees are running. Or call Folsoms at 370-0908 or 887- 3672 to find out if they’re open or to pick up some syrup on off days.
While any weekend in March you’re likely to find the evaporator running at Folsom’s, they are again participating in the New Hampshire Maple Producer Association’s Maple Weekend, a statewide event that brings customers out in droves. It’s a busy weekend for them, said Folsom. Maple Weekend is March 23 and 24.
If you’re in Sandown or Hampstead, contact Dupouy at 887-8040 or Bassett at 382-1407 to get syrup from the Daves. Or stop in at 72 Odell when the steam is rising. Dupouy said it becomes a fun place for friends and neighbors to stop by and see sugaring in action. “People stop by quite often. It becomes a social event,” he said, illustrating how maple sugaring in New Hampshire is not just about the syrup.