We ended up at a sugar house…

13 Mar

To be more precise, we ended up at the North Hadley Sugar Shack, and it was amazing. I was joined by seven other students and two staff members for this snowy, weekend day trip organized by CEEDS. It was my first time ever at a sugar house and even though it wasn’t the rural hilltown sugar house experience, it was great.


This is Joe in front of the evaporator explaining what it takes to boil sap into maple syrup.

While we waited for a table in the restaurant we checked out the syrup making process. I realize that sounds boring but Johnny and Joe, brothers and co-owners of the farm, were there to explain how they are able to boil so much sap at the same time.  They don’t use little pans, like in the olden days, they use an industrial size boiling system that is carefully monitored for changes in temperature and humidity. It’s a good thing they can boil a lot of sap at a time since it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. For demonstration purposes they still have one of the smaller, more traditional evaporators; Joe, Jr. was in charge of stirring this one and explaining how it worked. It was pretty much the same as the newer boiling systems, but he had to do everything by hand. Joe, Jr. was about 10 years old.


This is the system that Joe Jr. was in charge of. He used a large ladle to test the viscosity of the syrup.

After tasting some of the fresh syrup and warming up in the steam and heat from the evaporators, we decided to go watch cider donuts being made from scratch by Martha and John, mother and father of Johnny and Joe. Tessa, their granddaughter, was there to help. We arrived to the demonstration a little early, so Martha offered us some of the goodies left over from the earlier demonstration. We each sampled some maple candy, maple cream, and maple butter; I didn’t even know you could make so many different things with maple, but now I know that each is even more delicious than the last. Then Martha started mixing the cider doughnut ingredients, which were then put into a large container that measured and dispensed the correct amount of mix for each doughnut into a machine. The doughnut landed on a conveyor belt, which dropped it into hot oil, flipped it, pulled it out to drain, and then dropped it again in a sugary mix. I got to try one of those freshly made donuts, almost too hot to eat, and they were amazing.


Martha and Tessa handing out cider doughnut samples

Just as we finished our last samples we were called to our tables for brunch. I ordered pancakes with eggs and bacon. As soon as our order got to the table, we all started taking pictures; it just looked so good we couldn’t help ourselves. But we soon dug in and it tasted even better than it looked. There was a full bottle of maple syrup at the table when we sat down, but by the time we left more than half was gone. We really did go all out. I really appreciate the chance to go through this process, from tapping trees to seeing syrup made, to sampling candy and eating fresh maple syrup on pancakes. It was a great experience that I’m not sure I could get anywhere else, let alone at a different college. Although I didn’t try the sugar on ice, like Laura, I still had friends and food.

SugarHouse6Breakfast- before and after…

-Stefanie Cervantes, ’13

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