Spring is upon us once again here in Maine and along with the season comes the statewide celebration of Maine Maple Sunday. Maine takes the production of maple syrup very seriously and this event gives Maine’s maple syrup producers the opportunity to showcase their maple syrup products. Maine Maple Sunday is always held on the third Sunday in March. A few sugarhouses hold this event both Saturday and Sunday. During this event, visitors should expect to be sweetly spoiled with free samples and demonstrations on how maple syrup is made. Many venues also offer tours and a wide variety of activities for the whole family to enjoy.
We had visited Maple Hill Farm in Farmington, Maine last year and we wanted to switch things up this year and visit a different sugar shack. We decided to visit the Jackson Mountain Maple Syrup Farm in Temple, Maine. It was supposed to be cloudy the whole weekend, but it turned out to be a partly sunny and mild all day. Our drive to Temple was very pleasant until we got to Orchard Hill Road where the sugar shack was located. Even though it is spring, we still have a substantial amount of snow on the ground. At this point, we’re left with several layers of snow that have compacted into ice. This can only mean one thing in Maine. Not only is spring maple syrup season, but it is also mud season. After driving a little way on the paved section of back roads, we turned onto a dirt road. With all of the snow and ice melting, the dirt road had turned into a muddy road. We were faced with the choice of taking the chance of driving through the mud and getting stuck or staying put and parking the car farther away from the sugar shack, staying on the pavement. We chose the latter. Next year, we have to remember to drive the truck instead of the car, because you never know what you are going to encounter out there this time of year. I’m glad I remembered to wear my mud boots though. I’ve experienced muddy shoes and pants from various activities through the years during these types of events. I learned my lesson. I suppose as the saying goes, you live and learn.
Mud season in Maine.
A muddy back road in Maine.
A spring on the side of the road.
Making our way up to the sugar shack.
Sugar shack on the hill.
The Jackson Mountain Maple Syrup Farm sign.
Another view of the Jackson Mountain Maple Syrup Farm sign.
When we arrived at the Jackson Mountain Maple Syrup Farm, we had received a warm welcome from the Hodgkins family. We were given a short history of the establishment from its inception back in 1979 to its present-day operation. One of the members of the family, Joe, had explained that they were getting a slow start to producing their maple syrup this season because the sap wasn’t running that quickly yet. Even though it is spring, this year’s maple syrup season has been cold. In order for the sap to flow, there need to be optimal temperatures. The ideal weather conditions for sap collection are daytime temperatures of around 40 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures below freezing. We have only had a few days this season that fit those criteria so far, but there is still time.
Visitors inside the sugar shack on Maine Maple Sunday.
The evaporator for the maple sap inside the sugar shack.
Another view of the sap evaporator boiling sap.
Collecting maple sap.
Steam coming from the maple sap evaporator.
The vented ceiling of the sugar shack.
We walked outside to see the sap collection lines located on the side and back of the sugar shack. I was glad to be wearing my boots here as well, because we sunk into the snow in spots a couple of times. The snow is still well around two feet deep and walking around in wet shoes would have made for an uncomfortable afternoon. When we got back inside, we enjoyed some wonderful and tasty maple syrup from the previous year, freshly baked goods and other sweet treats that were available. Also, due to the fact that their sap supply was limited, the family made an ordering list available for interested potential customers. Individuals could leave their personal information and be notified when their syrup would be ready for purchasing. They also had a cookbook for sale that was compiled by Beth, one of the Hodgkins family members. If you are interested in this wonderful cookbook, it is called Beyond Panckaes and offers several tasty family-style, syrup-themed recipes. We found quite a few of the recipes worth trying. We already prepare many of our recipes at home with maple syrup. This includes an array of salmon and vegetable dishes as well as a few desserts. After a while, we decided it was a good time to say our goodbyes and we thanked everyone and wished them a fruitful season.
The back of the sugar shack.
Tapping trees in the snow.
Sap lines in the back of the sugar shack.
A table of Maine Maple Sunday treats.
A very smiley Joe.
On the way home, we couldn’t resist a quick stop by Maple Hill Farm. We figured we had time before it closed and it was on our way. Another catalyst for this stop was our knowledge of this place having the best samples of vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup. We also wanted to see if they had any maple syrup for purchasing. I believe they had better luck in their collection of sap, because the evaporator was boiling quite nicely. They also had plenty of samples and a new edition of a wide selection of gluten-free treats available for Main Maple Sunday. This would be beneficial and inclusive for those who can’t eat gluten. After we enjoyed our ice cream, we purchased a quart of maple syrup and it was time to go.
I would like to thank the Hodgkins family from the Jackson Mountain Maple Syrup Farm for a wonderful afternoon. We hope to continue our own tradition of visiting sugar shacks in the area on Maple Sunday next year. I would also like to thank Pete and Bruce from Maple Hill Farm for our maple syrup purchase. I think we have become quite partial to this place and I’m sure we will either make Maple Hill Farm our first stop on our way out and about or last stop on the way home next year. Thank you again and I wish everyone a great maple syrup season!