An abundance of snow and freezing temperatures have made for a short maple sugaring season in New Hampshire – one of the worst Hank Peterson of Peterson’s Sugar House in Londonderry said he remembers.
Trudging through several feet of snow has made collecting the sap that has run from his 500 taps especially difficult, according to Peterson.
“We’ll be lucky if we produce half a crop,” he said.
In an average year, Peterson, who has been sugaring in Londonderry for 30 years, said he produces about 125 gallons of pure, sweet maple syrup.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce just one gallon of maple syrup; and for the sap to run into the metal buckets hanging from the taps, Peterson said producers need cold nights at 20 degrees, followed by warm days reaching 40 degrees.
Because the region has been seeing freezing temperatures throughout both the days and nights, Peterson hasn’t had enough sap to boil down.
But last week, temperatures warmed up just long enough for Peterson to collect enough sap to fire up his evaporator, which is fueled by pine.
About six school groups were scheduled to visit Peterson’s farm – one group traveled all the way from Exeter for a lesson on the process he uses to boil sap down to the sweet syrup they pour on their pancakes.
His sugar house is a traditional wooden shack, which Peterson said he built when he moved to Londonderry from northern Wisconsin, where he learned to sugar in his family’s business.
New Hampshire has about 600 maple syrup producers, with about 400 members in the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association, according to Peterson.
Maple syrup produced at Peterson’s Sugar House is sold at his farmhouse, at Mack’s Apples and in local gift shops.
This year’s harsh winter could make a bottle even more coveted, with the sugaring season having started about two weeks late and expected to end early.
Generally, Peterson said the sugaring season ends the first week of April.
If you do happen to get your hands on a bottle of Peterson’s maple syrup, he said his favorite combination is maple syrup over ice cream.