Making Maple Syrup: A New England Tradition

The maple leaf might be on the Canadian flag, but maple syrup is all New England. The history and making of maple syrup is as much a staple of the region as lobster, snow, and summer vacations. Throughout New England, maple sugaring and the heritage of making maple syrup has an almost mythic status, and that popularity is reflected in the enormous number of activities centered around it. 

If you want to experience the magic of sugaring season, and the fervor that New Englanders have for it, visit during the spring to see people making maple syrup the old-fashioned way (the only way, as far as we're concerned). To help you plan your adventure, we've put together a list of ways you can do just that.
 

Vermont: Maple Syrup Mecca


Maple syrup producers keep a wood-burning stove roaring during the boiling process.

In the world of sugaring, there's Vermont and there's everywhere else. More genuine maple syrup is produced in Vermont than in any other state; the National Agricultural Service estimates that in 2013, Vermont sugarhouses produced more than a million gallons of the sticky sweet substance. That massive production is the modern outcome of Vermont's longtime love affair with maple syrup.

One of the best places to learn about that storied sugar making history is at the New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Vermont. It's filled with sugaring artifacts and covered in murals depicting the history and legend of maple syrup production, so you get a complete orientation to making maple syrup, just short of having to go out in the snow and tap trees yourself. Swing by the Mountain Top Inn and Resort in nearby Chittenden for some R&R, or stop into the on-premise sugarhouse at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.
 

New Hampshire: Quality Over Quantity


Sample the grades of maple syrup.Across the Connecticut, New Hampshire maple producers have their own claim to fame in this time-honored New England tradition. The Granite State doesn't produce as much syrup as Vermont (nobody does), but what it does make is regarded as some of the best, highest-grade maple syrup available. 

You can watch many of New Hampshire's sugarhouses making maple syrup at the annual New Hampshire Maple Weekend. During this statewide celebration over 100 sugarhouses open their doors to the public for fun and delicious samples. There are more sugarhouses than you'd ever be able to visit, but you're welcome to try. Start by grabbing a room at the Centennial Hotel in Concord for central access to all the maple action.
 

Maine: The North Woods' Treasure


Buckets hang on a maple tree to collect sap for making maple syrup.FACT: The state known for lobster, crab cakes and sweeping views of the Atlantic is also a steadfast producer of maple syrup, making almost a half a million gallons in 2013. Maine's climate is known to be good for syrup production, with cold winters and springs giving way to mild summers. Visitors travel from around the country to take part in Maine festivals and events celebrating the springtime tradition of making maple syrup.

In fact, the Maine Maple Producers Association maintains the most stringent regulations for the production and grading of maple syrup. Maine law actually dictates that all syrup made and sold in the state must be U.S. Grade A, so you can be sure that you're getting a consistently great product. One of the best ways to enjoy Maine maple syrup is on Maine Maple Sunday, an annual festival that opens the state's sugarhouses and maple farms to the public each spring. Enjoy the crash from your maple-sugar high in the comforts of the Inn at Brunswick Station, just south of prime Maine sugaring country.

Making maple syrup might not seem like an activity that can lead to an exciting New England vacation, but trust us — when you get a taste of the region's syrup culture, you'll never feel the same way about pancakes again.


Photo credit: Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development.