March 21, 2010

Maine Maple Sunday: Tasty maple treats, from beans to doughnuts

By WENDY ALMEIDA Staff Writer

The sweetness of early spring is almost here, which in this state means Maine Maple Sunday. Sugarhouse treats abound next weekend, with plenty of free samples to be found around the state.

MAINE MAPLE SUNDAY

WHEN: March 28, some sugarhouses will be open Saturday.

WHERE: Statewide

HOW MUCH: Many sugarhouses offer free samples. Pancake breakfast prices range from $6-12 per person.

FOOD OPTIONS: Pancake breakfast and maple syrup samples. Depending on location, maple baked beans, maple glazed doughnuts, ice cream and other sweets may be available.

PARKING: Roadside parking might be required.

DON'T MISS: Sampling a variety of maple treats.

KID-FRIENDLY FACTOR: Great.

BENEFITS: Supporting local agriculture.

IN CASE OF BAD WEATHER: Rain or shine.

MORE INFORMATION: For an interactive map of sugarhouses participating in Maine Maple Sunday, go to www.mainemaple producers.com/maine-maple-sunday-map.html.

See video of the boiling process and footage from previous years on Wendy Almeida's Kid Tracks blog at RaisingMaine.com/maplesunday.

John Wallace of Harvest Hill Farms says he's looking forward to another great event at his Megquier Hill Road location in Poland.

"We're going to have the Grass Hole Band playing all day and Emmett Pickett, a real dyed-in-the-wool Maine character (played by Barney Martin from the Maine Hysterical Society), walking around to entertain everyone," he said. "And there'll be plenty of free samples."

According to the Maine Maple Producers Association Web site, 40 sugarhouses will open their doors to visitors March 28 for tours and demonstrations of their sugaring operations.

Each sugarhouse offers its own array of treats, from maple cookies, glazed doughnuts, fudge and taffy to cotton candy, lollipops and whoopie pies. But one thing that's sure to be plentiful is the maple syrup, both for sampling and for purchase.

"We've been boiling every day since Feb. 24," said Kristi Brannen of Spring Break Maple and Honey in Smyrna Mills. "We've never made maple syrup up here in February before. We're having a really good year."

Maine Maple Sunday -- which, for some sugarhouses, is a weekend event -- is especially appealing to pancake lovers. Breakfast is served through lunchtime at most locations, but there are specialty lunch items as well.

"We served about 300 people pancakes last year," said Jo-Ann Merrifield of Merrifield Farm in Gorham. "We also serve maple baked beans, maple chili and steamed hot dogs for lunch. But sometimes people are asking for the beans at 9 o'clock in the morning."

Merrifield said the farm will offer more than breakfast and lunch on March 28.

"We've been doing an icehouse demonstration for the past three years," she said. "There's a gentleman who talks about the tools and about how they are used to harvest ice. And the Brass Knobs 4-H Club comes to the farm and does oxen demonstrations. They usually bring carts to give the little kids rides."

Spring Break Maple and Honey offers tours of its sugarbush that include following the pipeline system through the woods and back to the sugarhouse. And there will be many treats awaiting visitors after the tour.

"We will be doing sugar on the snow. And yes, we still have snow up here," said Brennan, who also explained why their sundaes for sale are extra special. "We use a local dairy everyone loves, Houlton Farms Dairy, for our sundaes. We put syrup, whipped cream, maple-coated nuts and a piece of maple candy on top."

There is something for everyone in the family to enjoy on Maine Maple Sunday with the wide variety of food options and entertainment, much of it an educational history lesson on the time-honored tradition of sugaring. And there really is nothing like the taste of early spring in Maine to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 822-4079 or at:

wea@mainetoday.com

 

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