SYRUP SEASON: Local sugar houses are in high gear
MASON – A New England tradition is underway at Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, where a family run business has recently started the maple-syrup-making process for yet another year.
“Sugar season begins early to mid-February, but it does vary,” Ron Roberts Jr. said.
The season is dependent on the weather, but runs it course for about six weeks, and could go for eight weeks, but wraps up early to mid-April. Roberts said cold nights and warm days are needed. So, there’s a short window of time to tap trees, run tubes and collect sap in 50 gallon drums, sometimes a 300 gallon tank, before boiling it to become 66 to 67 percent sugar. He said trees produce a lot of sap, but they only take a small amount.
“When it (sap) comes out of a tree, it’s 2 percent or 2.3 percent sugar on average,” Roberts said.
The first boil of the season takes longer, because it’s completely raw sap that’s flooding the pans, and Roberts said you have to sweeten the pans.
“Once sweetened, then the syrup comes quicker. The first day of boiling took me six hours, and I didnt get any syrup, but got the pans to that point of being ready, and the next morning within an hour they were ready,” Roberts said.
Fresh sap forces the sweeter sap forward and Roberts said, “Once you get a hard boil going, the sap could draw off syrup in 15 to 20 minutes.”
It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, and the Roberts’ have been producing gallon after gallon since the family purchased Parker’s Maple Barn in 1986. He said the Parker’s originally began the business in 1969, before it changed hands.
“We very quickly realized we needed to add onto the restaurant in order to accommodate the number of guests,” Roberts said, adding that, “We kept all the recipes and everything pretty much the same, but added onto the restaurant.”
Aside from adding more seating, they also realized their kitchen was small, making it hard to keep up with the amount of people coming in, so they added a new kitchen, as well. These additions were made in the early 1990s, and even now in 2018, there may be a bit of a wait to be seated in the restaurant. However, there’s much to do in the meantime.
Folks have the opportunity to take tours during the season, typically on weekends from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through March and April, and see what the process is like in making their maple syrup at the sugar house. Also, there’s a gift shop on site.
“We’re in the process of changing hands from my parents to my wife and I. My mum and dad are getting older, and recently last year my dad asked if I’d take over the family business so he could retire,” Roberts said.
Roberts grew up here, working in the business, but after starting a family was away for awhile. However, now he’s back and boiling in the sugar house while his wife manages the gift shop, both gearing up to take the business into their own hands.
“Ron Roberts Sr. is working on going into retirement over the next year. He’s been coming here every day of his life for the past 32 years,” Roberts said.
He said people come from all over New England to stop by, and for those interested in visiting or learning more about Parker’s Maple Barn, they can visit http://www.parkersmaplebarn.com.
Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or email@example.com.