Maine Maple Sunday Weekend brought Mainers out of hibernation and visitors from throughout the region to enjoy just about everything maple themed.

Sponsored by the Maine Maple Producers Association, the annual event includes dozens of sugar houses throughout the state opening for tours and samples.

Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner served many breakfasts Saturday morning that included scrambled eggs, maple bacon, maple sausage, crepes and French toast.

“The French toast — it’s actually a French toast casserole,” eighth generation owner Jeff Timberlake said. “My daughter makes it and it’s really good.”

Ricker Hill started producing maple syrup around 1803 when the orchard opened. Timberlake said it stopped producing in the mid-1950s, but started back up around 15 years ago and has been participating in Maine Maple Sunday Weekend for about a decade.

Timberlake walked people through the syrup-making process, a near exact science. He said their process yields about a gallon of syrup from 40 gallons of the 2% sugar water, or sap, coming out of the trees. That produces about 125 gallons of syrup from the 500 trees they tap.


The sugar water goes through reverse osmosis to concentrate the sugars to around 4% before the water is boiled off at 218.7 degrees, leaving behind pure syrup. Timberlake said they start tapping trees around Valentine’s Day and continue until the sap stops running during the mid-spring budding.

“I got back into this because my grandson was about the age of one of these little tikes running around here, and he wanted to know how to make syrup,” he said. “So, we started doing it, collecting (sap) during the week and Saturday afternoon, we’d all sit around, tell lies and have a good time.”

Beyond syrup, Ricker Hill Orchard’s primary business is in harvesting apples processing them into a variety of products like wine, beer, cider and more which they sell in their store along with a variety of products. During warmer months, the site offers disc golf, a petting zoo, corn and hay mazes, a playground with hay slides and a corn box as well as hosting several events.

Timberlake said the ninth and 10th generations of the family are now running the store. His daughter Jen Maheu and her husband, Steve, are kind of running the show now and she said it can be a lot of pressure.

“It’s been going for over 200 years and you don’t want to be the reason” it ends, she laughed.

“It’s a bit of organized chaos,” Steve Maheu said.


Blais Maple Syrup

Blais Maple Syrup in Greene also brought in waves of people looking to wade through the syrup-making process, but most people’s interest was in the final part of the process — consumption.

Ricky Blais, who lives in North Carolina, was home visiting his Maine family and helping with make syrup. Blais and his brother Shawn are the third generation in their family’s syrup business. Blais said his father, Mario, and grandfather, Marcel, built the maple house and later the retail area with lumber they milled from their property.

Like Ricker Hill Orchards, Blais Maple Syrup offered maple-based products of all kinds — maple cotton candy, kettlecorn, creme, taffy and candies. Blais said syrup operations are just about the same wherever you go, but the process can differ slightly depending on the types of trees used to gather sap. But the reverse osmosis and boiling process is standard.

Rock maple trees — like the type Ricker Hill Orchards uses, Blais said — produce around a gallon per 40 gallons of sap, but the softer maples Blais Maple Syrup uses can yield a gallon for every 50 to 55 gallons of sap because there is more water content. The specific boiling temperature can vary due to barometric pressure.

“On a rainy or overcast day, the boiling temperature is going to be a little higher than on a nice sunny day,” Blais said. “It’s weird, but that’s how it is.”

Maple creme follows the same process, but must boil at a higher temperature, and then be cooled quickly and brought to room temperature slowly while being whipped, Blais said. Varying the temperature can result in other maple products. For example, taffy is made by heating the sap at a higher temperature than the creme, and the hard candies by an even higher temperature than the taffy.

While Shawn Blais lives in Maine yearound to help run the business, Ricky Blais said he makes a yearly pilgrimage to Maine to gather product and spread some of the maple love back home in North Carolina. He brings nearly 40 gallons of syrup back to two breweries that use a combination of maple syrup and coffee in aged bourbon barrels.

“That’s a process in itself, but it’s good,” Ricky Blais said.

Ricker Hill Orchards and Blais Maple Syrup are open for Maine Maple Sunday Weekend from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Slattery’s Sugarhouse in Minot is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Treehouse Brand Maple Syrup, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story