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maple syrup

Posted 2/5/2016 11:32am by The Webb Family.

About one week ago on January 28th, Tyler and I sat around the dinner table and debated over whether or not to start tapping our maple trees. The seven day forecast was showing not a single daytime temperature below freezing, which would have been normal if it were March. Unfortunately it was still January. It would be the earliest the Webb family would ever start tapping, and we discussed the pros and cons. After much debate, Tyler concluded that we stand a pretty good chance of missing a really great sap run if we don't act NOW. 

What is the downside of tapping this early? Some may argue that you run the risk of missing later runs during the 'regular' season. The reason? - once you drill a hole into the tree and insert the tap, you have created a wound. Compare this to a cut on your arm. Human blood begins to clot in order to prevent your arm from bleeding. The trees act in a similar way. Sap carries nutrients up to the crown of the tree, and when the tree is punctured, the sap eventually will begin to clot around that hole. When you are looking to pull that sap out of the tree, this isn't good. However, much research has been done and new technology has been developed. The introduction of new drop lines (connects the tap to the tubing) every 3-4 years and taps/spouts every year has helped keep things clean. We use spouts that contain a 'check valve' which lets sap run out of the tree but prevents any bacteria from entering the hole. This technology both protects the tree and enhances the collection of sap, hopefully avoiding any pre-mature healing and prolonging the maple season.

 

We are a small operation compared to many in VT/NH. We put in about 1,300 taps, while the large operations measure in the tens of thousands. Those maple operations were tapping already, but they need to start early at that kind of volume. It usually takes us about 3-5 days to tap our trees, fix damaged lines, and assure our vacuum lines are running correctly (for more info on this, you can read last year's blog - Preparing for Sugaring Season). So on Friday morning, January 29th, Ty went into the woods to begin the 2016 season. 

 

Over the course of three days, we installed 1,200 taps throughout our 12 acre sugarbush. By Sunday afternoon at 2pm, when we installed the last 200 taps, the sap was pouring out as we drilled the holes. It was also nearing 45 degrees, and it was only January 31st.

  

Tyler then spent the rest of the afternoon checking vacuum lines and tightening up the intricate system of tubing. We went to bed that night wondering if all this work would pay off or if it would be a big bust. 

By Monday afternoon, we had 750 gallons of sap at 1.9% sugar (an average measurement would be 2-2.5%) in the tank. For the first time ever, Harding Hill Farm boiled sap on February 1st. We sweetened our pans and made one and half gallons of fresh maple syrup. The quality was perfect, yielding a clear, light Grade A Amber Rich. Prior to 2016, the earliest boil on record was on February 18, 2012. 

 

By Tuesday, with sun and 40 degree temps, the sap was pouring into our tank at a rate of 80 gallons per hour. In the afternoon, it was probably closer to 100-125 gallons per hour. We boiled over 1,200 gallons of sap on Tuesday night, bringing our count to 23 gallons of syrup for the week.

 

On Wednesday, it rained. The raw, damp temperatures just above freezing caused the sap run to stop in its tracks… but Mother Nature was about to throw another curve ball at us. During the night, Wednesday into Thursday, temperatures rose to nearly 50 degrees. When Ty went out to check the tanks at 6:30am on Thursday morning, they had been overflowing for at least a couple hours. Around noon on Thursday, we began boiling around 1,400 gallons of sap. When we left the sugarhouse around 6:30 pm, we had managed to make just under 50 gallons of maple syrup this week. It wasn’t a bust!

This morning we woke up to 28 degrees and snowing...We are wondering if Mother Nature is drunk or just very confused.

 

However, we have a few hundred gallons of sap left from last night, so we will boil again with friends this evening. As we watch the forecast closely, we may get a bit more sap over the weekend, with a possibility of making syrup on Sunday. After that, things should slow down and freeze up… and then we wait. What will the rest of the season bring? How will our trees respond? We wait and hope for the best.

Posted 1/3/2016 4:57pm by The Webb Family.

Winter weather has finally arrived. Being a snow lover, I'm trying to forget those 60 degree days we had around Christmas and embrace the change. Forecasts are calling for below zero temps in the next couple days, and I'm pulling out the winter hats and scarves. 

This is normally a busy time of year around here, despite the cold. Tyler is usually in the woods 6 days a week. During the week, I'm at the office, but on the weekend I'm usually skiing or coaching skiing. This year, without frozen ground, the logging season has been delayed. Meanwhile the ski area is just barely opening, and I'm not able to get back on the slopes for another month or so due to rehab from hip surgery. To fill the time, I have been experimenting with new recipes. 

We like to make meals that use real food, meaning as little processing as possible and farm-raised or locally sourced. Coming off of surgery and limited physical activity, I'm also focused on cooking healthy enough to keep the pounds off. I'm constantly on the hunt for new recipes and ideas. You can find some of my favorites in my occasional posts to the HHF recipe tab on our website. 

For Christmas, my mom gave me a new cookbook - Maple by Kate Webster. I figured it was just another maple syrup themed book, filled with breakfast, dessert, and generally unhealthy recipes. I could not have been more wrong. This book is filled with delicously fresh, seasonal, and healthy recipes using maple syrup in new and creative ways. It has inspired my latest posts to our recipe section of the website, and I highly recommend the book. You can also find more from Kate Webster on her blog - www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com.

Great for a weeknight dish, we tried her Maple Tahini Chicken and Broccoli as our first recipe from the new book. Ty is a big fan of Chinese food. I despise it, basically throwing it in the category of unhealthy, fast food. This recipe puts a fresh spin on the classic chicken and broccoli dish, both sweet and savory. Also a great excuse to pull out a bag of our frozen broccoli from the farm garden. We even had leftovers for lunch for the next couple days.

 

On New Years Eve, we had friends visiting for the weekend. To celebrate, we wanted to grill up some HHF grass fed steaks. I started thumbing through my new Maple cookbook and came upon a recipe for Chipotle and Maple Flank Steak Tacos. I was sold. The mexican theme gave me an excuse to make some 7 layer dip for an appetizer, which is one of our favorite indulgences. This dinner was delicious, and surprisingly not very spicy despite the chipotle peppers. We will use the marinade again, as it was a perfect fit for the flank steak. Steak tacos may become a new staple in our house.

I hope this helps some of you find some inspiration and new recipes to try at home. As a natural sweetener, maple syrup is filled with minerals and antioxidants. I love spreading the word that it can be used for more than just your Sunday pancakes. For the amount of maple syrup we are going through in our house, I'm just happy we produce it right here on the farm. Stay tuned for more posts and recipe experiments... Happy New Year!

~ Kelly

Posted 4/16/2015 5:53pm by The Webb Family.

We were nervous as the season started with colder than normal temperatures and a first, rather pathetic boil on March 11th. We just kept telling ourselves that we still managed to start earlier than our 2014 start date on Maple Weekend (March 22nd). The sap trickled in as the trees slowly thawed after a cold, harsh winter. Our boils amounted to 300-700 gallons at a time. Not exactly ideal.

It pays to be optimistic. Starting during the week of April 6th, the sap started to flow. Then winter made an appearance with a few inches of snow on April 9th. After that, it really started to flow. We are talking about 120 gallons per hour out of our 12 acre orchard with 1200 taps. That's a lot. 

 

The amount running out of our small tank off 72 taps was pretty amazing too!

We boiled for 18 days in a row at the sugarhouse, with 25 days total for the season. It was a long stretch with little rest. On Saturday, April 11th, we boiled approximately 2,250 gallons of sap. It was one of our biggest days ever with a daily total of 54 gallons of syrup made! 

 

We also had a few missed opportunities... when we showed up and the 1100 gallon sap tank was overflowing and trickling down the driveway into the mud. Guess we should have gotten up earlier that day!

We are very excited to finish our maple season out with 520 gallons of maple syrup, which is well above our average 450 gallons. We will need it with a record season of customer sales out of the sugarhouse.

Thank you again to all our fantastic customers, friends, and family!

We will have our syrup available directly from the farm throughout the year by order in glass, plastic, or custom wedding/special event favors. Contact us by email. 

Syrup available at several retail stores in the area - including Wild Goose Country Store, Gourmet Gardens ~ Gifts of Great Taste, Spring Ledge Farm, Kathan Gardens, Mount Sunapee Resort, and Bartlett's Blueberry Farm

Posted 4/1/2015 6:32pm by The Webb Family.

The New Hampshire Maple Weekend is a great spring tradition in our family. We love sharing what we love with so many people. It brings the locals out of hibernation to enjoy the sweet smell of steam from the evaporator, but it also brings out tourists visiting for the weekend. Some people may have never seen the process behind maple syrup... and we love to share why the pure stuff is so much better. We usually even see a few people still in their ski boots straight off the slopes of Mount Sunapee... and we did see that again this year! We truly appreciate the hundreds of people that stop in to see us each spring. 

This year, we offered our usual tours and fresh syrup samples. We also had Sanctuary Dairy Farm Ice Cream's Maple Cream ice cream on hand to serve with hot syrup on top. Kelly baked some maple cookies and offered numerous maple and grass fed beef recipes too. 

 

We had a whole crew helping out during maple weekend, including most of the Webb Family (Van, Robin, Tyler, Kelly, Sam, and Sawyer), Clark, Heather, and Jeremy. A huge thank you goes our to our friends and family who helped either by keeping the sap boiling, advertising our open house, or simply supporting what we do. 

photo credit - Donna Therrien

The weekend started off with temperatures in the 20s on Saturday with a couple inches of snow accumulating, and it ended with beautiful sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 30s on Sunday. We never get two good days in a row during maple weekend, that's for sure! While the sap did not run much over the weekend, we were able to save enough from Friday to do a slow boil all weekend. 

 

Once again thank you to all our supporters and customers! We cannot continue to do what we do without you. As we enter April, the maple season in some ways has just started this year. The weather this week has moderated into a great above freezing day/below freezing night cycle, and we are making a lot of syrup! We will be open again Easter weekend, April 4-5 from 10am till 4pm. Hope to see you there!


photo credit - Max Webb

Posted 3/2/2015 5:31pm by The Webb Family.

It has been a long and cold winter to say the least. The days are getting longer and the sunshine feels a little warmer. Sugaring season is just around the corner. We are tapped out in our sugarbush, just waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate!

Every year, usually in late February, we start looking for the change in the weather.  We are looking for warm, sunny days with cold, below freezing nights.  These warm days, about 40 degrees, unthaw the trees enough to allow sap to flow up into the crowns of the trees.  This sap flow is the start of the growing season for a tree, and the sap contains the minerals and nutrients needed to give the tree energy to make leaves.

We try to be ready for these days well in advance so we don’t miss any of these “runs.” A run is when the days are warm, and the sap is flowing in the trees.  A run is any gatherable amount of sap, usually a minimum of 250 gallons, that we can then boil down to make syrup. 

Our preparations for the season can take some time, depending on how Mother Nature has treated us over the winter. We check to make sure that our tubing is stretched tight from tree to tree.  We take the time to get all of the fallen limbs off the tubing and repair any damage that may have been done by squirrels during the year. Those critters love to get some remaining sweetness out of the tubing.

The next step is to start tapping. This step usually takes about three to five days. This depends on how deep the snow is and how much time we can put towards it. If conditions are just right, we can drill about 40-50 taps an hour. We use an 18V drill to tap at a depth of only about 1.5 to 2 inches into the tree. Then we insert the spout and “tap” it with a hammer until it is seated snugly into the tree. If you pound the spout too far into the tree, there is a chance to split the hole. That split would cause the sap to leak out around the spout, losing this precious liquid. We like to avoid that at all costs!

We always debate on when the best time is to start tapping. The timing truly is a guessing game and changes every year. This year, Tyler started tapping our trees on February 22nd and finished up on March 2nd. All 1,300 taps on around 12 acres are ready for mother nature to get the sap flowing.

  

Our first run is always exciting. The warm days will feel great after a cold winter, especially this year. We also get to spend a lot of time in the woods chasing leaks in the tubing. It’s fun running around on snowshoes to watch sap flow through the tubing. It's also a great exercise plan for us and our one year old labrador retriever.

Then, a few hours later, we will be making steam and waiting for our first sweet taste of maple syrup for the season. Stay tuned for updates as the weather turns...

A big Thanks to Paul Howe Photography for some great photos. We even made the front page of the Eagle Times!