March 20, 2011

Nature's sweet nectar as fleeting as spring

Free samples are all part of the allure for guests who come to Folsoms Sugar House
in Chester for tours and tastings this weekend.
Union Leader Correspondent
Rowan Dunning, 9, of Goffstown enjoys some
maple syrup-topped ice cream,
 courtesy of Cam Picard, background.
Here is a window into why Brian Folsom is in the sugar house business.
“Brian’s grandmother used to use sap for everything, when the sap was running. She’d cook vegetables in it, make her tea with it. We never understood why her vegetables always tasted so much better than everyone else’s,” said Andrea Rohde, Folsom’s sister.

Rohde drove to town Saturday from Kennebunk, Maine, to help out with crowd control at her brother’s place, Folsoms Sugar House, during New Hampshire’s annual Maple Weekend.

The annual crowd-pleasing event draws thousands of maple enthusiasts who have options — 85 of them, to be exact; that’s the number of participating sugar houses that open their doors for demonstrations, tours and free samples over the two-day event.

It also provides an opportunity to market the fruits of their limited labor.

Maple season is as fragile as it is brief; depending on the seasonal temperature and just the right mix of cold nights and warm days, maple farmers have a small window for collecting sap and boiling it down into syrup and other delectable by-products, including maple cream, maple candy and maple sugar.

One of the first things Jon Chase, 12,
 of Exeter, noticed was that Folsom’s evaporator was made in the U.S.A. The second thing he noticed was the “wicked hot” temperature, thanks to the wood Folsom feeds it every six minutes.
“Whoa — 220 degrees,” said Jon, who is taking in all the nuances of the syrup manufacturing operation. It’s his first
 time, said his father, David Chase.
“We wanted to do this for a couple of years, but this year, the timing was finally right,” said Chase. “My father actually recommended Folsom’s.”

Brian Folsom’s sugar shack is small,
 but that’s what many of his customers like about it.

“We’ve been to a bigger place, west of here. But we like the intimacy here. It’s not a pre-packaged narrative. You can hang out and talk to the guy, and he can explain the process,” said Matt Morrison of Derry. He was loosely supervising his boys as they took a final splash in a mud puddle outside the sugar house on their way toward the car, as his wife, Amy, snapped some photos. “Of course, the boys like the free samples.” 
Muriel Gordon and Fran Royea of Plaistow were standing next to the evaporator, which was chugging out clouds of steam as the brown bubbles of watery sap boiled down to syrup, which emerged as a slow drip from a spigot positioned over a silver bucket.
Jon Chase, 12, of Exeter, gets a close
 look athow maple syrup is made from
sap during a tour at Folsom's Sugar House
in Chester Saturday.
“We come every year,” said Gordon, showing off the contents of a brown bag full of small bottles of syrup, which she will take with her as souvenirs on her upcoming Florida vacation.
Inside the gift shop, the newest addition to the 20-year-old sugar house, sisters Madison and Samantha Takesian of Sandown, ages 9 and 6, were wiggling their fingers around in the bottom of small white paper sample cups, to get the last granules of maple sugar.
“Mmmmmm,” said Samantha, as she moved on to a plate of pretzel sticks surrounding a dish of maple mustard.
“Mmmmm,” she hummed, crunching happily, as she was
 about to send her half-eaten pretzel stick back into the savory drink for a second taste.
“No double dipping,” said her grandmother, Geraldine Takesian, in the nick of time.
Mary Downes and son, Ryan Dunning, 9, of Goffstown were the first customers in line for a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup and a liberal spray of whipped cream.
“We are a maple syrup family,” said Downes, sliding the first bite into her son’s wideopen mouth. “We try to hit a different maple house every year.”
Maple Weekend continues today.
For more information on where to find a sugar house near you — or one you’ve never visited before — go to

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