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Fernald wins 39th annual Ledger-Transcript maple syrup contest

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript held its 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday at Cooper's Hill Public House in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Sunday, April 14, 2019 1:10PM

“Oh God, that’s nice,” said Roger Swain, as he put down another small cupful of maple syrup. He’d already swilled two dozen swigs of the sticky stuff as he and fellow judges Kin Schilling and Ben Watson narrowed down entries at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript’s 39th annual Maple Syrup Contest on Saturday morning, but this one just hit differently.

“It’s a really good year,” said Cathy Somero, whose Somero Maple Farm syrup was one of 23 contenders in the contest, tying the record for most entries in the event’s 39 years. “I think all the syrups are really good this year...way lighter syrup this year.”

By the time the 23 samples lined up in numbered mason jars on the long wooden table at Cooper’s Hill Public House in Peterborough had been whittled down to the final five or six, those that made the cut bore striking similarities in flavor and appearance.

“We’ve got light amber across the board, ladies and gentlemen,” Swain announced. 

It came down to two syrups, nearly identical – one from Ro-Fam Sugar Shack, produced by the Rokes family of Francestown, and the other cooked up by Mark Fernald of Sharon. Both were great syrups, the panel agreed, but Fernald’s had the edge by virtue of mouth feel and finish, and took the victory with a unanimous vote. 

Fernald has entered the Ledger-Transcript’s syrup contest year after year, and finished second three times; a slight change in the boiling process may have made the difference this year.

“Last year our syrup was really dark at the end of the season and I felt like it was maybe overcooking too much,” Fernald said. This year, he cooked for a week, shut the boiler down, drained it completely, and then cooked again, to avoid residual buildup. Pairing that technique with a sap yield that producers across the board are reporting as lighter than usual, Fernald’s syrup came out liquid gold. 

Fernald was one of the majority who voted for Jean and George Rainier’s syrup on the People’s Choice ballot, and the Rainier’s Sugar House product won that category.