General Info

Our Association

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of maple sugaring in Massachusetts. Regular members are actively producing maple products or directly related to the maple industry.

We support ongoing research into the many factors affecting our member farms, including production practices, quality control, environmental concerns, land development pressures and long term tree health.

Our booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA (The Big E) is a great place to try a sample of the sweet treats from our woodland farms.

Please request an application for regular membership, or consider supporting our efforts with a contribution.

MAPLE SUGARING TIME

From late February through early April, farmers in nearly every hill town village in Massachusetts honor an old New England tradition. They take to the woods with buckets, tubing and drills to gather the sap from sugar maple trees, boiling it down to pure maple syrup.

Sugaring is the first sign of the annual agricultural awakening. Old-man winter disappears in puffs of sweet steam from weather-beaten sugar houses. The warmth of the evaporator and the aroma of hot syrup contrast with the lingering chill outside.

It's time for maple syrup poured over pancakes or waffles in a farm kitchen. Or for hot, thickened syrup dribbled over a pan of clean snow to make a rich taffy, called "sugar on snow." Our Massachusetts sugar houses welcome visitors to share the joy of the first true "rite of spring."

All of the sugar houses listed in this directory are open to the public during the sugaring season (late February through mid-April), but its best to call ahead to get their hours and boiling schedules. Many sugar houses offer eating facilities where you can enjoy a sugarhouse meal of steaming hot blueberry pancakes covered with freshly made pure maple syrup, as well as many other farm-fresh maple treats. Some areas of western Massachusetts have many sugar houses located a short drive from each other, so its possible to take a day or weekend trip and visit more than one. Many country inns and Bed & Breakfasts are located in maple sugaring country; write to or email our Association for more information.

BOIL 'TIL IT'S DONE

The sugar maple tree, "Acer saccharum," is a sturdy native of the northeastern United States and was growing here in abundance long before the first colonists arrived. The settlers learned sugaring from the Indians, who collected sap in hollowed-out logs and steamed away the water by dropping in hot stones.

Today, much care is taken to produce maple syrup of uniform quality and superlative flavor. Gathering and tapping operations recognize the need to preserve the delicate balance of the sugar orchard. Properly cared for sugar maples can be tapped at 40 years of age and will yield sap for 100 years or more. The modern evaporator, with its wood or oil fire, helps the farmer control the quality of the product. Syrup is checked for density, color and taste before it is graded to Federal standards and sold.

New equipment to speed the handling of highly perishable, raw sap is always being tried. However, the formula for making maple syrup is still the same: Take a sizable stand of sugar maple trees. Add warm days and freezing nights. Gather the sap as it moves inside the trees, and bring it to the sugarhouse. "Boil 'til it's done" - until you make the day's "run" (a whole day's flow of sap) into syrup. Do this almost every day, sometimes day and night, for four to six weeks, until the nights no longer freeze. Then clean everything and put it away until the spring crows call in the trees, "It's sugaring time again."

MAPLE EVENTS

January - Massachusetts Maple Producers Association annual meeting, open to anyone interested in maple. Call (413) 628-3912 for information.
July - Last Sunday. Massachusetts Maple Producers Association summer picnic. Call (413) 628-3912 for information.
September - Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield. Sample Massachusetts maple products at our booth in the Massachusetts building.

MAPLE PRODUCTS: A YEAR ROUND TREAT

Although the boiling season occurs only from late February through early April, demand for pure maple products has increased in every month. Many sugar houses listed in this brochure will ship maple products directly to you or your gift recipient. Write or call them for mail order information.

If you would like your local Roadside Stand or specialty food store to carry Massachusetts maple syrup, send us their name and address so we can contact them about potential suppliers. The Massachusetts crop is made by your neighbors. It is truly part of the Commonwealth.

To view the locations of sugar houses, where you can purchase maple products, and take tours of the maple syrup production process, please visit our Members page.

"SWEET TALK"

A glossary of maple sugaring terms

APRONING - A test to check the density of boiling sap. When sap drips off the end of the dipper in sheets, it is "aproning" and is ready to be called syrup. The final test for proper density is done with a glass instrument floated in the syrup - a hydrometer or hydrotherm.

BUDDING - When warmer weather in the late spring causes leaf buds to swell, the syrup takes on a strong molasses flavor. This signals the end of the sugaring season.

DECLINE / DIEBACK - Signs of a lack of vigor in any tree. Causes are numerous and seem to be increasing. Much research is being done on maple decline and its possible link to environmental factors.

FILTERING - The process of clarifying pure maple syrup. Raw syrup contains various suspended particles (called "sugar sand') brought out in the boiling process. In earlier days, these particles were "settled out" in bulk containers before retail packaging. Today we filter through cloth and paper membranes, producing crystal clear syrup.

GATHERING - The process of collecting and moving the sap from the maple tree to the sugarhouse.

GRADING - USDA Grade A light, medium and dark amber are considered table grades. USDA Grade B is a dark, strong flavored syrup. often used in cooking, though some prefer it for table use as well. All are the same density. Lighter syrup has a more delicate flavor; darker is more "mapley." Medium and dark amber are most widely available. Light amber, used for maple candy and maple cream, is made early in the season; Grade B is made late.

MAPLE CANDY - Made by boiling down maple syrup, stirring it, and pouring it into molds for hardening. Pure maple candy is made from maple syrup only. Blended maple candy contains corn or cane sugars in addition to maple.

MAPLE CROP - An entire season's production. Average in Massachusetts is about 50,000 gallons for the entire state. Most of our sugar houses make between 100-1000 gallons.

REVERSE OSMOSIS - A mechanical means of removing some of the water from the sap before boiling.

SHELF LIFE/STORAGE - Unopened containers of pure maple syrup may be left in a cool dark place for 6-12 months without refrigeration. After opening. syrup should be refrigerated. Freezer storage keeps open or unopened containers indefinitely, and the liquid does not solidify. Any harmless mold that forms on the surface of opened syrup may be skimmed off, and the product may be used after reheating to 190'F. Place reheated syrup in new, airtight containers.

SOFT SUGAR or MAPLE CREAM - A table spread with the consistency of peanut butter. Made by boiling syrup to a slightly lower temperature than that for maple candy, then cooling and stirring.

SUGARBUSH - The maple grove where trees are tapped and sap collected. A sugarbush is measured not by the number of maple trees, but by the number of spouts or taps set. Some old maples drip sap from as many as four spouts. Young trees (at least 40 years old) only have one tap. In either case, each tap yields about 10 gallons of sap over the whole season, which makes about one quart of syrup.

SUGARHOUSE - The rustic building where boiling the sap into syrup takes place.

SUGAR ON SNOW - A sticky, taffy-like treat made by thickening syrup on a stove and immediately pouring it on fresh snow or ice crystals. Eat a pickle between servings!

SUGARING TIME (Season) - Occurs in early spring when days are 35-45 degrees and nights are below freezing. When several of these days occur in succession, sap begins to flow. When nighttime temperatures remain above freezing and days warm into the 50's, the trees begin to bud and the season ends.

SWEET TREES - Not all sugar maple trees are equal. Some have sweeter sap than their neighbors. It takes fewer gallons of this sweet sap to make a gallon of syrup. Efforts to genetically predict (and reproduce) sweet trees have met with some success.

TAPPING - The first step in sugaring, when 7/16" diameter holes are drilled about 3" deep into maple tree trunks. Many old trees have been tapped in this way for 75 or more years.

TUBING/ PIPELINE - Increasingly used in hillside sugarbushes, plastic tubing conveys the sap directly from each tree to holding tanks. Some lines are a mile or more long and may connect 500 or more taps to a single tank.

MAPLE INFORMATION The Massachusetts Maple Phone number is (413) 628-3912. From late February to early April, a recording about the boiling season is updated regularly. At other times of the year, you will hear summary reports. You may leave a message at the end of the recording if you need additional information.