Maple syrup the Yankee way: Making it yourself

  • Jamie Jones of Temple dedicates the month of March to his hobby, making maple syrup. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Jamie Jones of Temple dedicates the month of March to his hobby, making maple syrup in the evaporator in his sugar house. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Jamie Jones of Temple drills a tap in a maple tree only a few feet from his sugar house, located on his property in Temple. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Jamie Jones of Temple bottles his syrup under the name “Treetops Maple Syrup.” Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Jamie Jones of Temple bottles his syrup under the name “Treetops Maple Syrup.” Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Lukas Mangum, 8, of Mason, and Elin Mangum, 4, hang a new sap collection bucket in their backyard. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Joonas Mangum, 11, of Mason, drills a tap while his sister, Elin Mangum, 4, watches. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Lukas Mangum, 8, of Mason, drills into a maple tree for a new tap while his sister, Elin Mangum, 4, and his father, James Mangum look on. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • James Mangum of Mason uses a hand-drill to tap a maple tree while his children, Lukas, 8, front, Elin, 4, and Joonas, 11, watch. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • James Mangum of Mason and his children, Joonas, 11, and Elin, 4, trek down a slope in their backyard towards their group of maple trees where they have their sap collection buckets. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • James Mangum of Mason and his children, Joonas, 11, left, Lukas, 8, and Elin, 4, spend their springs tapping the maple trees in their backyard to collect sap. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • A sap collection bucket on a maple tree in the backyard of James Mangum of Mason. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/6/2019 9:13:52 PM

For maple syrup makers, spring begins when the sap starts running.

“The weather and the trees dictate my schedule,” Jamie Jones of Temple said. “But that’s kind of what I like about it. For the month of March, the trees are my master.”

Jones is a hobbyist syrup maker. Using about 110 taps in the sugar maples on his property he makes more than 70 gallons a year. What he doesn’t keep for himself he gives away to friends.

His set-up is high-tech for a hobbyist, he says. He started making syrup over a fire and a cement block arch, but has since upgraded to his own sugar house and high-grade evaporator. He’s also developed micro-controllers to allow him to monitor and control things like the level of sap in his evaporator, the pressure in the rubber tubing bringing the sap from the trees to his sugar house, the temperature and the motors that run his pumps. His set up, all told, cost several thousand dollars.

“That’s a big investment for a hobby,” Jones said.

Making small batches of maple syrup in your backyard doesn’t have to be expensive, Mason man James Mangum says. He has been maple sugaring for 14 years after he learned how to make it from an old Reader’s Digest and has kept his sugaring operations on the small side. He still only taps about 15 trees in his backyard. He uses an outdoor fire pit with steel pans to boil his syrup and makes about two gallons a year – which used to be plenty for himself and his wife. Now that the couple has three children the syrup doesn’t stretch quite as far. But making maple syrup for Mangum has become more about passing the tradition on to his children, who now help him every year.

“They’ve only ever known a family that makes its own maple syrup,” Mangum said. “It’s not something I did as a kid, so I get to pass it down to them and start a new tradition.”

But whether the operation is big or small, the draw is much the same for those who fall in love with the process.

“I love that God hid candy inside trees, and if you take the time and have the patience, you can have a totally natural, organic treat that’s just delightful,” Mangum said.

“It allows me to commune with nature,” Jones said. “To get out, under the trees, in the snow, and take my time. It’s really introspective and meditative.”

Jones first started making maple syrup in 2012, when local forester Swift Corwin pointed out his crop of sugar maples and told Jones they were in the perfect location for sap collection, all in a row.

“He planted the seed,” Jones said. “And ever since I did it that first year, I knew I was hooked.”

Mark Fernald of Sharon said his forays into maple syrup making were much the same. He started his hobby using milk jugs as collection pails and boiling syrup on his wood stove. He didn’t get a lot of syrup that way, Fernald said – it takes about 40 gallons of sap to boil one gallon of maple syrup.

In 2007, Fernald was taking down his garage and decided to re-purpose the wood to build a sugar house and get a larger evaporator. He now makes about 20-30 gallons a year.

It’s an expensive hobby to get into, but it speaks to the Yankee spirit, Fernald said.

“There’s that whole line that runs through New England history that we’re independent and self-reliant and like to do things ourselves, and I guess that appeals to me,” Fernald said.

And the process has become a Fernald family tradition.

Fernald said he started making syrup before his daughter, Katie Fernald, was even born, and she helped him every year growing up. Though now an adult living in Maine, she makes the trip back home every March to help with the tapping and boiling.

“This was something she grew up with,” Fernald said.

Bringing friends and family together to make syrup is part of the culture for those who make it a hobby, Jones said. His brother comes to New Hampshire each year to help with the process and the Monks from the Temple Forest Monastery, who Jones gives syrup and sap to every year, also come by during the year to assist in the process at least once.

Traditionally those who step in to help get a share of the syrup. 

“It’s just fun to give away. Everyone loves maple syrup, and people really appreciate it,” Fernald said.

Once you start making a large amount of syrup, there’s only so much you can use yourself, Jones said.

Jones uses syrup in favor of cane sugar in a lot of his cooking now, he said, and he and his wife have several favorite maple recipes and use it to make granola. Plus, they add it to everyday items like their coffee (instead of sugar) and in their yogurt for breakfast.

“We’ve found so many ways to use it,” Jones said. “We end up using quite a bit. We don’t use regular sugar for anything anymore.”

For more information about maple syrup making, check nhmapleproducers.com to find a sugar house to visit during the state’s official maple weekend on March 23 and 24.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com . She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, your source for Peterborough area news.


Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458
603-924-7172

 

© 2021 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy