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April 8, 2013

Maple Syrup
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:28 AM * 54 comments

This is the New Hampshire maple syrup that we serve at Viable Paradise. It’s local to me, and I know the people who make it. It’s also, in my opinion, the best in the world. The syrup came in a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s the deal: David has 142 gallons.

Price is:

Gallon: $48.00
1/2 Gal: $28.95
Quart: $16.95
Pint: $8.95
1/2 Pint: $5.95

Grades currently available:
Grade A Light
Grade A Medium Amber
Grade A Dark Amber

The grades we serve at VP are the medium and dark amber. There may be some Grade B available later in the season.

Call P.A. Hicks & Sons, Inc. 1-603 237-5531 Packing is free. As I understand it shipping is by USPS flat rate, and is at cost.

P. A. Hicks and Sons
120 Main St.
Colebrook, NH 03576

Phone (603) 237-5531
Fax (603) 237-4190

Store is open 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. - 12 noon Saturday, closed Sunday. All times Eastern.

Comments on Maple Syrup:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 10:47 AM:

What's the significance of the grades, apart from the difference in colour? I know that different kinds of honey have different tastes, depending on the flowers from which the honey is made, but I have no idea what the different grades of maple syrup signify.

#2 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 11:50 AM:

Fragano, from my experience the darker colors have more maple flavor than the lighter.

#3 ::: alkali ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 11:52 AM:

Early season sap has the most sugar, and so you need fewer gallons of sap and have to do less boiling to get a pint of syrup.

Late season sap has less sugar, and so you have to start with more sap and boil more water off to get a pint of syrup with the same sugar content.

Accordingly, with late season sap, (1) more of the sugar caramelizes, which makes the syrup darker in color and gives it more of a caramel flavor, and (2) there is more "maple" taste in the syrup.

The "A" and "B" grading comes from long ago when maple syrup was marketed as a substitute for cane sugar, and a "purer" sugar taste was thought to be more desirable. Nowadays foodies frequently prefer the dark Grade B syrup as providing the more interesting taste. Periodically there is some discussion about revising the system to reflect that change in preferences.

#4 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Making the Grade: Why the Cheapest Maple Syrup Tastes Best

Also: Restaurants use Grade B because it's darker (along with being more flavorful) so people use less of it because it's more visible on the plate.

#5 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 03:34 PM:

CAMP, for me!

#6 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 04:15 PM:

Camp Pure Maple Syrup goes for $135.12 for one and a half gallons.

#7 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 06:23 PM:

Sounds great - but I think shipping to the UK would take the price well beyond reasonable, unfortunately.

#8 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 06:25 PM:

dcb: You want I should ask?

#9 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 06:58 PM:

I am sorely tempted. I can get perfectly respectable maple syrup from various stores here, but I know what proper New England maple syrup is, and that's a more than reasonable price.

It might even make me happier about apartment hunting, which is driving me up the wall right about now.

#10 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 09:59 PM:

Wow. I never even tasted real maple syrup until I was an adult (West Coast child), but I can see that's a great deal. What's the shelf life on maple syrup? I've never gotten enough to worry about.

#11 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2013, 10:35 PM:

@10 B. Durbin
What's the shelf life on maple syrup?

Long. As in, years worth. That's in an unopened can, of course.

Once opened, it should be kept in an airtight container and refrigerated. I've had it keep for many months that way - it would have gone longer, except we ate it all! You need to be careful to avoid contamination, so always pour out the amount you need to serve, never dip.

If you need to keep opened containers for a longer period of time, freeze them. It'll keep forever. Thaw at room temperature.

#12 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 04:31 AM:

Jim Macdonald @8: yes, why not!

#13 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 07:40 AM:

Oh wow. I sense holiday gifts and a sudden strong need for French toast.

I'll wait for the Grade B, since it'll take that long for me to decide what I want to do.

#14 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 09:30 AM:

Mmm, syrup. I'm torn between ordering now and waiting to see if there's some B showing up a little later.

#15 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 10:06 AM:

Decisions, decisions. Get some dark amber now, and then get B grade if there is any but know that the dark amber is a hedge just in case, or hold out for B grade?

Mmm, maple syrple.

#16 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 10:11 AM:

"What could be more Christmasy than a thick stack of syrup-drenched waffles?" --Herb the Dinosaur, Wil Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration

(this after a group of sheep goes by singing "Here We Come A-Waffling")

Damn, now I want waffles. Will probably have to settle for buckwheat pancakes with blueberries. And maple syrup, of course. (Be quiet, my ancestors. I eat cane syrup sometimes. When I can find it.)

#17 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 10:17 AM:

Grr. PIgs, not sheep. (Later there are geese, singing "Here We Come A-Waddling.)

#18 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 10:27 AM:

Incidentally, when Miss Teresa visited she saw Hick's Hardware and commented "If this were in Brooklyn people would blog about it."

They have everything from grandfather clocks, tombstones, and little red wagons to the most serious plumbing supplies and specialized tools.

This is a family-owned business that's been going for at least three generations.

#19 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 10:57 AM:

Just a note of potential interest from my family's maple-syrupping operation this spring:

>> Again it's the weather. The forecast is ever changing with the latest prediction being up to 3" of snow by the end of the day tomorrow with daytime highs at or below freezing until Friday.

The sap started running last Friday with a little accumulation in both the storage tank near the shed as well as the one now placed in the southwest hollow; there is about 75 gallons total on hand, which is not enough to start the evaporator.

The snow is slowly melting and is now about 18" deep in the southwest hollow and about a foot deep above the shed. I had thought we would be boiling sap this weekend but if the weather forecast holds true it won't be until the following week. Hopefully what we have won't spoil before we get enough to boil.

Personally, I think if it's cold enough for snow, spoilage shouldn't be a problem.

#20 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 11:03 AM:

Where are you located, Laramie?

#21 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 12:31 PM:

There's also "kettle syrup", which looks like used motor oil and is full of ultra-concentrated mapley goodness.

#22 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 12:34 PM:

#12 dcb

The nice folks at Hicks say "Give us an address and we'll figure the postage."

So, if you e-mail me your address (to yog @ I can ask 'em.

#23 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 01:54 PM:

and it's worth every penny!


#24 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 01:56 PM:

still, i will try the Hicks.

#25 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 03:06 PM:

Jim MacDonald @22: would you be willing to ask about shipping to places further away yet? (Namely, and to wit, Ankara/Istanbul)

#26 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 04:12 PM:

# 25 praisegod barebones

I would happily do so. Address as above.

A gallon of syrup weighs approximately 12 pounds (5.4 kilos).

#27 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 04:35 PM:

This sounds a lot like the half-gallon of New Hampshire maple syrup I bought from the people who made it, at an art-and-strawberry festival north of Boston when I was out visiting last year, and packed carefully in my checked luggage for the flight home.

It is indeed very good stuff, and well worth the effort to obtain it.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2013, 07:31 AM:

Lori and Jim: Thanks.

#29 ::: Arwen ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2013, 01:58 PM:

I still have most of a tin of Canada #2 amber, so I'll hold out for the Grade B. Will you post when it's available? Please? :-)

#30 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2013, 02:13 PM:

Is Xopher not here? He was asking about Maple Syrup a few threads back...

#31 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2013, 02:48 PM:

It should go without saying (even though it says so right on the label), but you need to refrigerate maple syrup after it's been opened.

A gallon of syrup lasts me about a year; refrigerated that's no problem.

Apparently some folks don't know that, though.

#32 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2013, 04:35 PM:

I've written back to everyone who's written to me; if you don't have a reply your letter got lost, please resend. (Nor is there anything in my spam filter with the word "Maple" in its subject line from the past couple of days.)

#33 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2013, 08:14 PM:

I've made that mistake (opening it, and then leaving it in a cabinet). Wasn't a happy day.

TNH just convinced me over Twitter that I should order a gallon out to CA; I'll call them in the morning and do it.

#34 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 02:23 AM:

I brought some maple syrup home from Quebec after the Worldcon in Montreal. When I opened it, I was surprised to see it fizzing and bubbling. Definitely yeast. It smelled like fresh bread. So I boiled it and put it in a clean jar. In the refrigerator, of course.

#35 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 06:55 AM:

TomB @34: Sounds like the makings of a delicious maple syrup beer, to me...

(Has anyone tried brewing with this stuff, as suggested in Jim Macdonald's link @4?)

#36 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 11:33 AM:

@35 James E
Has anyone tried brewing with this stuff, as suggested in Jim Macdonald's link @4?

I haven't made it, but I've had it to drink. Apparently, you make it like Honey Mead, just substituting the syrup.

#37 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 11:55 AM:

Cheryl @36: Any good? And how maple-y was it? I was thinking of swapping it in for the sugar in one of those homebrew beer kits but I fear the flavour might be swamped by the hops.

#38 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 12:06 PM:

You can get maple beer at the brew-pub attached to the Oasis restaurant in Littleton, NH (closest Big City (in the USA) to me -- they have a stop light!)

#39 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 12:16 PM:

@20 Jim Macdonald - I'm in Minneapolis; the family has a maple lot up near Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Every year my uncles tap the trees with the help of such family members as can join them and boil down the sap - not a commercial operation, but those who participate get the syrup for their trouble.

#40 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 12:38 PM:

@37 James E

It was good, and tasted faintly maple-y. I would think hops would certainly give the maple flavour a fight; then again, I hate beer, so I may not be your best sample.

Based on baking experience, I would suggest a darker more robust syrup, like a B (No.2) Amber. Of brewing experience, I have none.

#41 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 01:02 PM:

OK, this is starting to sound like a fun experiment (and there will soon be a need for delicious summer alcohols). Jim Macdonald: you have email.

#42 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 01:23 PM:

James @35: Oh, yes. I got a bottle of maple liqueur from the Hydromellerie Intermiel a few years back. It was awesome. I think the name on the label was Geai Bleu.

#43 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 01:25 PM:

Isn't maple mead a tradtional Barrayaran delicacy?

#44 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 02:15 PM:

Ginger @42: Ah, but would that be a distillation of maple mead or an infusion of maple syrup into a different liquor? (Which sounds like another excellent idea, actually, and I might have to get a full gallon to try some of these out...)

#45 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 03:55 PM:

Now I want to point friends of a friend at a distillery out here in the Bay Area at the idea of Barrayaran maple mead... they'd do it, too.

#46 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 05:18 PM:

Postage costs: extortionate, verging on ruinous. My face: pouty. I shall have to leave maple syrup experiments for those on the correct side of the Atlantic for it to not require a mortgage.

#47 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 06:04 PM:

@42 Ginger and 44 James E:

Hydromellerie Intermiel, which makes Geai Bleu, is local to me. You can find more info about the product here, if you like.

#48 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 07:15 PM:

My dad made some honey mead that was the best liquid substance ever. He used champagne yeast. It looked like beer but it was bone dry and bubbly like a good champagne, and tasted delicious. It had a kick like champagne too, which was disconcerting for something that came in a beer bottle. I consider most mead to be undrinkable, but this was the nectar of the gods. If you want to try it yourself, I should caution you that brewing is simple but not easy. My dad was an expert and meticulous home brewer at the top of his game when he made that mead. And even then I think he had some problems with bottles exploding.

#49 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 08:52 PM:

A local dairy makes maple cheddar. This is not to my taste. I don't find sweet and cheddar to go together happily. Sweet and gouda might, as I like gouda with fruitcake. But not apple pie and cheddar. YMMV

#50 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2013, 09:44 PM:

@49 Henry Troup

But not apple pie and cheddar. YMMV

In my family, "an apple pie without the cheese, is like a hug without the squeeze".

#51 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2013, 07:37 AM:

Henry Troup@49

So apple pie and cheddar is simply no gouda?

#52 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2013, 12:36 PM:

I like apple pie. I like cheese. I like cheese and apples. But cheese and apple pie is mystifying. I've tried it. It seems like a waste of perfectly good cheese and good apple pie.

More on topic, recently I made blueberry muffins and substituted maple syrup for some of the sugar. The muffins had a subtle maple flavor that was very nice with the blueberries. Recommended.

#53 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2013, 05:29 PM:

Cheryl @ 47: You are so lucky. I would be at Intermiel as often as possible, but for the distance and the international border. I see from your link (and many thanks for that!) they've changed the labels. Alas, Intermiel still doesn't sell online, and besides that, Maryland doesn't allow alcohol to be ordered and shipped from out of state. I can only bring it home myself.

Now I'm off to ponder ways to entice mes amis Montrealais to make a little detour before crossing the border.

#54 ::: Ginger is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2013, 05:30 PM:

Gno one can be sadder. However, I do have chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, and they are tasty. Would the gnomes care for some?

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