We missed Maine Maple Sunday our first 2 years in Maine. Ted and I could not wait to attend our first one. We had heard so much about it. Initially enticed by trying new things, we were ultimately fascinated by all we learned.
Maine Maple Sunday
Maine Maple Sunday is always the fourth Sunday of March. The Maine Maple Producers Association publishes an interactive map listing locations that are open to visitors. The sugar houses provide sweet treats and show firsthand how to make maple syrup and related products. Some of the sugar houses hold events on Saturday as well and/or the whole week leading up to the event.
We selected 3 sugar houses to visit based on their proximity to Camden, each other and what they were offering. Ironically, the three were very different scales of production which made it quite fascinating.
The first step in the process is to collect the sap from the maple tree. The maple producers told us that their goal is to tap all of the trees around mid-February. The sap runs when nights are in the 20’s and the days are in the 40’s and not breezy. Simmons and Daughter’s Sugarhouse was our first stop. It was the smallest operation that we visited with 900 taps. This still requires a huge amount of effort in my opinion. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
It was amazing to me to hear how many Mainers tap whatever trees they have available. They produce their own maple syrup just for fun!
Our next stop was Beaver Hill Plantation. This operation is a bit larger and growing. They have 1,200 taps now, but plan to expand to 5 to 7,000 taps. In order to make their production more efficient, they use some additional tools to collect the sap.
The vacuum can suck the sap from trees up to five miles away from the collection vessel. The sap has a sugar content of about 2%. Next, the sap goes through a reverse osmosis machine. The machine removes enough water to change the sugar content to 10%. This makes the next step, concentrating the syrup, easier.
Pure Maple syrup is natural and nutritious when compared to other sweeteners. In comparison to corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, and white sugar, it has more manganese, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
There are 4 different grades of syrup.
- Delicate Flavor is golden in color. Generally an early season syrup.
- Rich Flavor is amber in color. This is the most popular and used on pancakes.
- Robust Flavor is a dark color. It is often late season syrup and used in cooking.
- Strong Flavor is a very dark color. It is great in baked goods where a strong maple flavor is desired.
Other Sweet Treats
The initial intent of the adventure was to try maple sweetened treats. All of the maple producers scooped vanilla ice cream with maple syrup poured over top. Each venue had other different options.
- Maple cotton candy (I am not a big cotton candy fan, but this was not as sickening sweet as pink circus cotton candy)
- Maple hotdogs
- Todd’s Salsa with maple syrup
- Baked beans with maple syrup
Other items that we did not try included maple candy, maple cupcakes, maple tea, maple coffee and maple popcorn. Kinney’s Sugar House is open year round and has a large assortment of maple products. They are open 9am to 3pm, but suggest you call before heading out.
If you missed Maine Maple Sunday this year, mark your calendar for next year 3/25/2018. You’ll love sweet and informative Maine Maple Sunday. If you can’t wait until next year, each of the three sugar houses we visited said they would still be boiling into April. Each recommended giving a call ahead if you are interested in stopping by to check out the maple syrup making process.
What is your favorite maple product or memory?