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March 23. 2013 10:45PM

Maple producers strut their sap and syrup stuff at annual tour


Nick Kosko, right, of the Meadow View Sugarhouse in Union, describes the workings of the new wood-fired evaporator where maple sap is boiled. The sugarhouse is open this weekend for NH Maple Weekend. The Sugarhouse, 141 Wakefield Road, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. (LARISSA MULKERN/Union Leader Correspondent)

The steamy sweet smell of boiling maple sap wafted through the state on Saturday when more than 100 maple syrup producers opened their doors to the public for New Hampshire Maple Weekend.

In Union at the Meadow View Sugarhouse, visitors lined up to sample different grades of syrup and partake of maple products such as mustards and butters, cotton candy, doughnuts and hot dogs boiled in maple syrup.

New York City resident Gina Muzio and her boyfriend, Trevor Emmons of North Berwick, Maine, toured some of the region's sugarhouses.

"This is something you don't find in the city," said Muzio.

Their favorite maple product is the maple cranberry hot/sweet mustard.

Kids touring the new "Intens-O-Fire" stainless steel wood-fired evaporator at the Sugarhouse filled up on syrup, goodies and fun facts.

"It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, said elementary school student C.J. Escalera of Concord. "It's really cool - there's a lot of machinery."

His friend, Aidan Fox-Morrill, said he was having a good time. "It's a fun family activity," said Aidan.

C.J.'s mom, Sarah Escalera, said this was the family's first time out to Meadow View Sugarhouse. "T'is the season for maple sugaring. I just like the smells," she said. Her favorite? "The maple butter is to die for."

According to New Hampshire Maple Experience website, the state's maple industry produces close to 90,000 gallons of syrup annually. Maple sugaring time in New Hampshire runs from mid-February to mid-April. The season stalled a bit this past week when cold temperatures slowed sap, but sunshine and temps in the 40s loosened up the sap by week's end.

Sap is collected from maple trees through taps into buckets or tubing systems where it is collected and then boiled down in an evaporator over a blazing hot fire. As the steam rises, the sap becomes more concentrated until it reaches the proper density to be classified as syrup, according to the website. It is then drawn from the evaporator, filtered, graded and bottled.

Sugarhouse owners Nick and Cindy Kosko recently purchased a large, wood-fired evaporator, investing $20,000 into this fuel-efficient stainless steel piece of machinery. In all, they tap approximately 100 maple trees across five acres. Cindy said they use practices that keep the trees healthy and their tubing collection system clean and in good working order.

"This is our product - we want people to trust it," she said. Maple season typically yields between 500 and 1,000 gallons of syrup for the farm.

Visitor Larry Cocarus of Rochester visited Meadow View with his wife and three grandchildren.

"The kids are having a blast," he said. "This is unbelievable," he said of the giant new evaporator.

In Brookfield at the Seabrisket Sugarbush, owners Rick Surette and D.J. Walkey entertained visitors in their maple and baked goods shop and in the steaming room where Rick manned the evaporator.

The Sugarbush has been producing maple syrup since the 1800s, said Surette. This season they are tapping about 250 trees across 60 acres.

"We get excited about this season. It shortens the winter," said Surette.

In the nearby shop, visitors Huntley Skinner and her husband, Tom Skinner, came from the Boston area to ski and partake of the Maple Weekend.

"We love the wood-stove boiled syrups; it's more flavorful. They do it the right way here," said Huntley. The couple uses syrup on oatmeal, in their coffee, and as an all-purpose sugar replacement.

"Fresh maple syrup is part of my wedding vow - my commitment to the marriage is to make sure we always have a fresh supply of New Hampshire maple syrup," she said.

For more information about New Hampshire Maple Weekend and a list of participating sugarhouses, go to: nhmapleproducers.com.


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