Living in New England: Sugar Shacks

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My people hail from the South. 
No one from my family has come up to visit since we have lived here (please feel free to reprimand them in the comments;)  In fact, none of my immediate family has ever even been to New England... ever!  Often when I write I "try" to give my Southern peeps a little glimpse into what our life is like here, but as I say in my intro on the sidebar...
 If you've never been to New England I cannot describe it with adequate words, you really just have to experience it!

There are many aspects of life here that are so unique from other parts of the country, and I want to share those things with my family, and perhaps with you- if you have never been here.   I thought it might be helpful to do some posts called : Living in New England that highlight quintessential New England sights, events, situations, and experiences.   
I also know of many people who have lived here, in New England, their entire lives and perhaps don't realize that some of the events and sights that I will describe don't happen elsewhere in the country.  Or, maybe you are originally from New England, but have moved away... I hope these posts will bring back some fond memories for you.  
In any event I wish to share New England with you through the eyes of this Southerner.

Sugar Shacks
It is sugar season here in New England! This event happens once a year in early Spring when the maple trees are tapped for their sap, the sap is collected and taken to a Sugar Shack to be boiled down and made into the delectable liquid gold called maple syrup!
Sugar season lasts 4 to 6 weeks depending on the weather.  The perfect weather for getting the most sap from the maples is to have temperatures freezing (preferably 25 degrees) at night and 45-50 degrees during the day.

There are several methods commonly seen here to "tap" the trees.  This is my favorite, the old fashioned way- where metal buckets are placed on the tree.

Or, you can use plastic milk containers.

If you have a lot of trees to tap you would use the pvc tubes (here in blue, black and white).

The tubes empty into the large tub.

This Sugar Shack is in a small town near us.   Last year they tapped 7,200 trees in our area.  Each tree has only 1 to 2 taps so as to not harm the tree.  During the season they haul in 10,000 gallons of sap per day, and they burn 50 cords of wood for the season.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup!

Sugar season also coincides with "mud" season in New England.  This is why you need "mud" boots and a "mud" room here- which for my southern peeps is a room where you remove said "mud" boots before entering the house!

The Sugar Shack is open all year.  Please take note of the metal box on the counter on the right.  The shack is on the "honor-system."  You leave the money in the box.  We did not have the "honor-system" in Dallas:)

The huge boiler where the sap is made into the delicious syrup.  The sap must be boiled within approximately 8 hours of it being taken from the tree or it will go bad.  The sap is boiled to 218 degrees which turns it into syrup.

It depends on the time of the year as to which grade of syrup is our favorite.  Right now we really like the Grade A, but as the season progresses we like the taste of Grade B best.

And speaking of maple syrup.....remember this young girl who became an orphan when I stole the antique gilt frame that I found her in to use for a different piece of art?  Well.... she has a very happy ending.  She was adopted by the lovely, talented and oh-so-funny Linda at Lime in the Coconut!   Seems Ingrid took a liking to pure maple syrup during her time here in New England and she packed some in her knapsack (along with her scarf collection) before heading to Florida.  The gracious hostess Linda made Ingrid some Crunchy Coconut French Toast upon her arrival.   The recipe (do not miss this recipe) is here!
Don't you think Ingrid looks so much happier in Florida?! 
photo: Lime in the Coconut

That made me think that maybe YOU, too, might like a little New Hampshire Pure Maple Syrup!! 
So, today when I picked up a quart for us at the Sugar Shack I also picked up an extra quart to give away to one of you!  This syrup was boiled just this week!
For your chance to receive the sweet liquid gold,  just leave a comment on this post about your favorite way to enjoy maple syrup, or your favorite recipe that includes maple syrup, or how you would use the maple syrup if it arrives at your door, or if you have any favorite memories of Sugar Shacks, or if you've never had pure maple syrup, or your reprimand for "my people";), or.......  you can just leave any comment!!  Please be sure to include contact information if you post as anonymous.
Enter once up until 8pm EDT on Friday, April 1 !
did I mention that they give samples of maple syrup over vanilla ice cream at the Sugar Shack?!
soooooooo good!