1. When is the Massachusetts maple syrup season?
The Massachusetts. maple production season usually starts in mid/late February in the eastern part of the state and at the lower elevations in the western parts of the state. At higher elevations in western Massachusetts boiling may not start until the first week in March, or later in cold years. The season lasts 4-6 weeks, all depending on the weather. Most all producers are done boiling by mid-April, when the night time temperatures remain above freezing and the tree buds begin to swell.
2. Where can I visit a sugarhouse near me?
Over 100 sugarhouses in Massachusetts are open to the public. Some are small, backyard operations, some are rustic "back-in-the-woods" operations, and some are roadside attractions complete with restaurants. The size, locations, and features of the different operations vary a lot. Our sugarhouse directory gives you some information about each one.
3. Can I always see sap boiling when I go to visit a sugarhouse?
Sap flow from the trees is entirely dependent upon having the right weather conditions. Once collected, fresh sap must be boiled right away into syrup. The producer has no control over when the sap will run, so boiling schedules cannot be predicted in advance. Most sugarhouses open to the public make every effort to have sap to boil on weekends during the season. Because of varying weather conditions, its best to call the sugarhouse the day of your expected visit to check on boiling schedules.
4. What are the right weather conditions for sap flow?
The tree's sap flow mechanisms depend on temperatures which alternate back and forth past the freezing point (32 degrees F.). The best sap flows come when nighttime temperatures are in the low 20's and daytime temperatures are in the 40's. The longer it stays below freezing at night, the longer the sap will run during the warm day to follow. If the weather gets too cold and stays cold, sap flow will stop. If the weather gets too warm and stays warm, sap flow will stop. The cold weather at night allows the tree to cool down and absorb moisture from the ground via the roots. During the day, the tree warms up, the tree's internal pressure builds up, and the sap will run from a taphole or even a broken twig or branch. For good sap production, maple producers must have the alternating warm/cold temperatures. This is why its so impossible to predict the outcome of the maple crop from year to year.
5. What does maple sap look and taste like?
Maple sap, as it drips from the tree, is a clear liquid containing about 2% dissolved sugar. It looks just like water, and has a very slight sweet taste. The true maple flavor comes out as part of the heating and boiling process.
6. Does tapping harm the maple trees?
Proper tapping does not harm the tree, and the amount of sap taken from the tree is a mere fraction of the volume of sap in the tree on any given day. Trees must be about a foot in diameter before they can be tapped, and most trees can have one or two taps per season. Larger trees may have more. Many of the big maple trees in New England have been tapped yearly for well over 100 years.
7. How much sap does it take to make a gallon of syrup?
Depending on the sweetness of the sap, it can take anywhere from 25-75 gallons of raw sap to make a gallon of finished syrup. The usual amount is about 40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup. Each tap into a tree will yield about 10 gallons of slightly sweet sap over a period of the 4-5 week sugaring season. This 10 gallons of sap, when boiled down, will yield approximately one quart of finished maple syrup.
8. What is the difference between the different grades of syrup?
Is one better than the other? By Federal law, pure maple syrup must be graded according to color and flavor. The grades are Grade A light amber, Grade A medium amber, Grade A dark amber, and Grade B. As a rule of thumb, the lighter the color, the more delicate the flavor; the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. Grade B is a very dark and strongly flavored syrup. One is not better than the other, its a matter of personal taste preference, much like beer or wine. Some people prefer a very mild, light beer; while others prefer a more dark & hearty tasting beer. All pure maple syrup is better than the fake stuff! Traditionally Grade B syrup costs a bit less, which doesn't make much sense as it costs the producer more to make it.
9. What is Maple Cream?
Maple cream, also known as maple butter, or maple spread, is made from maple syrup that has been boiled further to remove more moisture, then cooled and stirred until it becomes "creamy". There is no butter, cream, or other additives in it. It is called maple cream because of its very smooth and "creamy" texture. It has the consistency of, and spreads like soft butter and is delicious on toast, English muffins, or on a peanut butter sandwich in place of jelly.
10. How long will maple syrup keep?
Unopened, maple syrup will keep indefinitely. Because it is an all natural product with no preservatives, once opened, a container of maple syrup must be kept refrigerated. If any harmless mold should form on the surface, merely bring the syrup to a slight boil, skim the surface, and pour into a clean container and refrigerate.