Monday, February 20, 2012

Maple Facts for Sugaring Season

It’s easy to love maple syrup – whether poured over pancakes, mixed with olive for a tangy-sweet vinaigrette, or baked into tasty muffins and bread. Making syrup, however, is a long labor of love.

To gear up for the NewHampshire Maple Experience and give you a sneak peak of some of the maple tidbits you’ll learn during sugaring season at The Rocks Estate, here are a few Maple Facts:

      - It takes 40 gallons of sap from sugar maple trees to make one gallon of syrup.

     - Maple sugar and syrup have been produced in the New England woods since the days before European settlers, when Native Americans collected sap in wooden or birch-bark buckets and boiled it down by plunging fire-heated rocks into the sap.

     - European settlers streamlined the sugaring process over time, first collecting sap in buckets and boiling it in large kettles hung over open fires, then moving to wood-fired sugar house operations. Today, large scale maple producers often collect sap in plastic tubing strung between sugar maples and feeding a collection tank, and many sugar houses include heavy duty, gas-powered evaporators to boil the sap into sugar and syrup.

     - Sugaring season is almost entirely weather dependent and lasts about 6 weeks long. Sugar makers in northern New Hampshire generally tap their trees in mid- to late February, and the season may last into early April. Ultimate sap flow through the trees happens with below-freezing nights and mild days. Once the sugar maple trees leaf out, the trees’ sap turns from sweet to bitter, and sugaring season is over.

     - Sugar makers often mark trees during the summer and fall months, so they can easily identify sugar maples during the late winter and early spring days of collecting sap. During sugaring season, they use trees’ buds and branch configuration to distinguish sugar maples from red maples and other species.

     - A sugar maple should be at least 10 inches in diameter– which translates to 40 years or older – to be tapped for syrup. Older, larger trees can support multiple taps, as long as they’re placed properly.

To learn how to identify trees, properly tap a sugar maple to collect sap, and see sugaring demonstrated by a fourth-generation sugar maker, come to The Rocks Estate and enjoy the New Hampshire Maple Experience! Maple tours are offered this year March 17, 24-25, 31-April 1, and April 7 and feature maple syrup tastings, cooking demonstrations by acclaimed local chefs, horse-drawn wagon rides through the historic Rocks Estate property, and lots of fun!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Coming soon... more Maple Experience!

Heading out for a wagon ride through The Rocks Estate.
As the days grow longer toward mid-winter, our thoughts at The Rocks Estate turn from Christmas trees to maple syrup and a new season of the New Hampshire Maple Experience.

Maple Experience visitors learn firsthand about the age old tradition of creating maple syrup and sugar from the sugar maple trees abundant in our region. Our staff and volunteers at The Rocks lead visitors on a journey through the history of sugaring – dating back to the Native Americans and earliest European settlers here – right through to the modern process, with a trip to our sugar house, a horse-drawn wagon ride through our historic property, and a tasting of the maple syrup produced from the sap of sugar maples growing on The Rocks Estate.

To make the Maple Experience extra sweet, we’re adding a few new features to the program this year. The first is the option to enjoy sugar-on-snow, where we’ll heat syrup and drizzle it over snow to create a delicious toffee-like concoction that’s sure to satisfy the sweetest sweet tooth!

... and sour!
Syrup and pickles - sweet...
We’ve also invited some of the best local chefs to join the Maple Experience this year, and they’ll demonstrate their cooking styles as they create mouthwatering goodies to share – using maple syrup and sugar, of course!

One of our favorite parts of the Maple Experience is the maple syrup tasting visitors enjoy. We always recommend pairing the syrup with fresh donuts and sour pickles for a wonderful combination of sweet and sour. This year, we invite visitors to post their favorite “sour pickle face” photos to our Facebook page.

The Maple Experience will be held at The Rocks Estate March 17, 24-25, 31-April 1, and April 7. 
For more about the Maple Experience, please read our full article.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sugar-on-Snow and maple cooking demos

New Hampshire Maple Experience Returns to The Rocks
Program features Sugar-on-Snow, Facebook photo contest, and maple cooking demos

BETHLEHEM, N.H.—The New Hampshire Maple Experience returns to The Rocks Estate this spring, showcasing the sweet tradition of sugar making with hands-on learning and tasty treats.
Owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, The Rocks partners each year with area inns and other businesses to celebrate maple sugaring season. The Maple Tour includes an interactive step-by-step demonstration of crafting maple syrup, complete with a visit to the onsite sugar house. New to the program this year is the option to enjoy sugar-on-snow, where syrup is heated and drizzled over snow to create a toffee-like concoction that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
“With the Maple Experience, we strive to provide a fun, educational program for visitors of all ages, while collaborating with other area businesses to showcase the beauty and creativity of our area,” said Nigel Manley, longtime Rocks Estate manager. “We keep the Maple Experience fresh by adding new features each season.”
A horse-drawn wagon ride through the historic 1,400-acre estate, and a syrup tasting – complete with the requisite sour pickle – make the Maple Tour a delight of the senses. In honor of the traditional pairing of sweet syrup and sour pickle – and the requisite “sour pickle face” – this year The Rocks will hold a Facebook competition featuring photos of Maple Experience visitors enjoying the delicious sweet-and-sour combination.
Also new this season is the “Taste of New Hampshire Maple,” featuring a variety of local chefs who will give cooking demonstrations at The Rocks during the Maple Experience. Each chef will prepare a recipe that incorporates maple syrup. Onlookers will be invited to sample the finished product, and each recipe will be printed and available for visitors to take home.
The New Hampshire Maple Experience is scheduled for March 17, 24, 25, and 31, April 1 and 7, with tours taking place throughout the day. Reservations are highly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome on a space available basis.
During the tour, visitors will learn how to identify the sugar maple trees that produce the sweet sap for making syrup, discover the history of maple sugaring, and see part of the process demonstrated by fourth-generation sugar maker Brad Presby.
The Maple Experience also includes a visit to the interactive maple museum and education center featuring maple sugaring artifacts from the extensive collection of legendary Sugar Hill sugar maker Charlie Stewart. The museum and sugar house are in one of the many historic Rocks Estate buildings restored for modern use.
The Rocks staff will be serving up piping hot pancakes for hungry visitors, as well as selling mixes from the famous Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill. Maple Experience visitors will receive coupons to Polly’s, which will open early this year, on March 17. Polly’s will be open weekends through May 12, when it begins daily operation through the fall.
Kingdom Kettle Korn will be popping and selling its delicious maple kettle corn at The Rocks during Maple Tours. Local businesses Lahout’s and Chutters help sponsor the Maple Experience.
For those looking to turn the Maple Experience into a weekend-long North Country stay, The Rocks is again partnering with local inns to offer weekend vacation packages. Visit to find participating lodging establishments.