(WWLP) – It’s that time of year! The tree sap is flowing and Maple Syrup is boiling! Mid-February typically kicks off sugaring season across New England, but this year’s mild winter is changing the schedules of local maple syrup producers.
This year’s mild winter granted syrup producers an early start, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a longer season. Steve Holt of Steve’s Sugar Shack has been making maple syrup since he was a teenager and has been in business at this location for decades.
“I’ve been sugaring for 40 years. It’s the best February we’ve ever had ever!,” said Keith Dufresne, the Owner of Dufresne’s Sugar House. Keith runs a sugaring business of his own, but was a patron today at Steve’s Sugar Shack cooperating on a batch of syrup and tucking into their signature sap-season breakfast.
He told 22News, the perfect maple syrup conditions are an overnight freeze in the forest to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a day-time thaw to about 40 degrees. That nightly swing is what keeps trees making sap for syrup and this winter, those above-freezing daytime temperatures came early.
“It feels great to have the restaurant filled right now. We have our community tables, people come in and socialize. It’s not real crowded to people can gather and talk about the winter, and woes of the weather,” Holt expressed.
In just a few weeks it will be too warm in the afternoon and not cold enough at night, signaling to the trees, ‘it’s time to grow leaves.’ For syrup producers hoping for seasonal income it’s like threading a needle.
“This season has been the hardest season to decide what to do and when. We actually started setting trees 10 days ago and we’ve already made 97 gallons of syrup,” said Holt. “An average season is about 300. The reason we all started early is that once it gets warm, the season could be over. It’s 25-percent of my yearly income, because I do a little lawncare on the side. But, it’s basically every day during sugaring season if you aren’t out there collecting the sap, you’re out there fixing things, cutting down trees that fell on the lines, washing things…We wash things constantly.”
It really is a precise science, interacting with the delicate ebbs and flows of nature. The very best way to experience it is a signature pancake breakfast. Opening Day is on Saturday at Steve’s from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. They’ve got a full breakfast menu, and Steve is sure to educate you on the sugaring process.
Steam rising from the roofs of sugar shacks across Massachusetts is a sure fire sign that syrup season is here. But fresh maple syrup isn’t the only thing cooking at Steve’s Sugar Shack on Saturday. The butter on top on Saturday is that a portion of the profits will be donated to Habitat for Humanity as part of an annual fundraiser.
A group of UMass Students volunteering their morning to help raise that money. UMass student Gabriele Martinelli told 22News, “I wanted to volunteer because helping others is always something I wanted to commit to.”
Pancake season at Steve’s is only a few weeks long. They’re open Saturday and Sunday’s through mid April, so get here soon before all the sugary, syrupy goodness evaporates into the Spring air.