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Spring Fever and Maple Syrup

by on February 18, 2012

West Hill Sugar House

Every year in early February we look for buckets hung on taps in maple trees, or tubing running from the trees into a tank, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.  Today my spring fever dragged both of us off our chairs and out into what was a beautiful day, looking for sap buckets or lines, and a sugar house.

We had to drive for a while to find buckets, because not a lot of producers use them.  Sure enough, there was somebody who was doing it the old fashioned way.  Visiting each tree and emptying the bucket into a bigger tank they haul around probably keeps them in shape though!  These buckets were collecting sap on Richards Road.

  

Then there are the big guys.  Syrup is gathered by taps connected to lines that gravity feed into large tanks that they can pump off into a tank on their truck.  I think our friends Jack and Tim from West Hill Sugar House use that method.  These lines belonged to another syrup producer and were on Niles Road.

Our last stop was West Hlll Sugar House, where Tim Mandel and Jack Trumbull bring the collected maple sap and turn it into a most wonderful maple syrup, in a big wood fired evaporator.

The evaporator is a large stainless steel tank that they fill with sap.  The sap is boiled down until it becomes your favorite pancake, waffle or ice cream topping, then they bottle it. Evaporators can run on other fuels, but this one uses wood.  They had bottled 15 gallons of syrup today (a lot of sap), and the bottle we bought was still warm.

You can see three stacks coming out of the top of the evaporator, and if you come by the Sugar House on West Hill Road while it’s running strong, the steam will be screaming out of the first two, and wood smoke out of the third.

When you walk inside you can smell the sweet maple and you find two really great guys that are happy to talk about the process.  Tim and Jack have been doing this for years, and it’s evident that they love doing it.

So when you’re running down West Hill Road, you see the sign, and it says “OPEN” I think it’s worth your time to stop in and get a bottle of the best New England has to offer, and it’s made right here, in New Hartford.

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