- FUN FEATURES
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Move over, Aunt Jemima.
Take a seat. Mrs. Buttersworth.
There’s some local residents who think the best maple syrup comes from their own backyards.
Maple syrup dates back hundreds of years and most people buy their favorite brand from the local supermarket or at farm stands throughout the year. However, some Cheshire residents have taken the initative and started making their own backyard maple syrup, relying on Cheshire’s abundance of sugar maple trees to provide the right amount of sap.
“When we moved here, I saw the grove of sugar maples that were all 50-plus years old,” explained Steve Greenwood, who has been producing syrup in his backyard since 2006. “You’re not limited in Cheshire to an inferior grade of syrup.”
When Greenwood moved to his Cheshire home five years ago, he had no maple syrup production background. Some of his neighbors were trying their hands at syrup production, so he gladly offered up dozens of his sugar maples for sap. Each tree is tapped with a spout and the sap is discharged into a collection bucket. Ideally, temperatures will drop below freezing at night, and go above 32 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to “wake up the tree” and let the sap flow more easily, Greenwood explained.
“There are tons of sugar maples in Cheshire, many right in the backyard,” he said. “You can use other maples, but they have the highest sugar content.”
It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple to produce one gallon of maple syrup, Greenwood stated. This year, Greenwood collected around 750 gallons of sap and bottled more than 20 gallons of syrup. Using different shaped jars, he had a friend produce “Greenwood Estates” labels, and he gives the product out to friends and family.
Boiling the sap two or three times a week, Greenwood created a generous supply of syrup this season. Starting as a novice, he now has some expertise in the field of maple syrup production, and he credits an Internet site, Maple Trader, with helping him along.
“People on (the website) are really great,” he said.
Recently, Greenwood stepped up production and, instead of relying on single taps and collection buckets on dozens of trees, he installed gravity flow lines throughout his property. He hooked up around 65 trees to the plastic lines, which feed sap into three large collection buckets. He would have tapped more trees, probably close to 100, but the snow was too much this winter. He also bought some new equipment that reduced the time it took to boil the sap down and produce the maple syrup.
“It was some new additions that took this to another level,” Greenwood said. “It made it really easy to collect and make.”
While Greenwood makes nearly two-dozen gallons of syrup, fellow Cheshire resident Jim Vibert makes considerably less, but always looks to involve his grandchildren. He started making maple syrup 30 years ago when he first came to Cheshire, while his children were still young. The kids eventually grew up and moved out, but he held onto all his maple syrup production equipment and uses it as a history lesson for his grandchildren and his neighbors’ kids.
“I teach 18th century life at a (local) museum, and I guess I take it to extremes sometimes,” he joked. “I enjoy teaching the kids something. We all really enjoy it.”
So, this year, Vibert enlisted the help of his neighbors and they hung collection buckets on the sugar maples on various properties in the neighborhood. Last weekend, Vibert collected all the sap, took out the boiling equipment, and, with the help of a bunch of children, made a few gallons of maple syrup.
“We got a late start this year, but it was very fruitful. With all the (materials) we use, we still break even on this,” Vibert stated. “But, with the kids involved, it’s a great time and there’s no measuring that financially. We made some maple syrup and, my goodness, there was some education, too. We all enjoyed the heck out of it.”