New England Gold Part 2

My friends Ken and Karen Mackenzie are busy these days, as the maple trees have been tapped, the sap has been flowing, and it’s time to fire up the evaporator and get those bottles filled! Nothing tastes like real, pure maple syrup!

This New England winter was tougher than others, and Ken had to battle not only mass snowfall but also keep ice from forming inside the lines. After tapping the trees, the sap goes into the holding tank, and then on to the Sugar House. The sap collected in buckets is hand-carried, and hand-poured in the tank, a very physical task! My shoulders were sore for several days after helping with this. Maple sugarers are always coming up with ways to make their hobby easier, and Ken is no exception. The funnel at the top of his holding tank is a repurposed chicken waterer!

Here I am pouring the sap collected from the metal buckets into the holding tank.

Before the evaporator can be used, Ken must have enough cut wood to keep the wood burning stove heating it hot. Cutting and stacking all that wood is a feat in itself! Once the fire is good and hot, the boiling process begins. The evaporator has four chambers, and a blower makes it burn a little hotter. As water comes out of the sap, it gets darker, the most golden color being in the fourth section. The steam coming off is terrific! Inside the Sugar House with the evaporator boiling, it’s like being in a sauna crossed with a bakery! Maple aroma sweetens the air, making your mouth water!

Ken uses a drop of a defoamer to keep things under control.

Temperature is key to good syrup, as well as length of time. Boiled too long, it can crystallize in the jars. Through many years of trial and error, Ken’s perfect “pourin’ off” temperature is 219.5 degrees, and it takes hours to get there. Ken suggests for supplies, and for beginner kits and information for the backyard sugarer.

Here is a picture of the large thermometer attached to the evaporator. Notice the darker color of the syrup in the fourth chamber (next to the thermometer).

Forty-five parts of water is boiled off to get just one part of maple syrup! After sap moves into the fourth chamber of the evaporator, it goes into a big coffee urn with two paper filters and a felt filter, and finally into the glass bottles. Gloves are a necessity as the bottle gets very hot!

Here I am opening the valve to let the syrup into the coffee urn.  From there, we fill the bottles.

The Mackenzies make bottlin’ a special time. Everyone who’s been part of the event gets to autograph the inside of the Sugar House. The doors and walls are Ken and Karen’s personal history, and my daughter and I joined their friends, family and scout troops who have been there in previous winters. How many bottles Ken has on hand depends on the season. Ken sells syrup by the bottle for $9.00 each (plus shipping and handling to far away customers who love it, too). If you’d like a bottle, contact Ken directly at

Karen uses maple syrup in cooking often, from meat and fish to baked goods. Her favorite recipe is Maple Granola. Mix it with yogurt, for snacking, or as a sweetener for unsweetened cereal.

Karen Mackenzie’s Maple Granola

3 cups rolled oats


1-1/2 cups favorite nuts, unsalted


3/4 cup coconut (optional)


1/4 cup + 2 TBSP maple syrup


1/4 cup vegetable oil


1/4 tsp. salt


1/4 cup brown sugar


1 cup unsweetned cereal of your choice,such as oat o’s or wheat squares


Preheat oven to 250. In large bowl, mix in oats,  nuts, coconut, brown sugar, and cereal. In small bowl, whisk syrup, oil and salt. Combine both. On two ungreased cookie sheets, bake for one hour fifteen minutes, turning every 20 minutes. After cooling, you can mix in 1 cup dried fruit of your choice, such as raisins or dried cranberries.

Maple syrup is one of my favorite treats, and now I have a real appreciation of how much effort goes into each delicious drop!

  1. Maureen Bruner says:

    Gosh, I want to move to your neck of the woods! I really enjoy your blog!

    Maureen, thank you for reading and such a nice comment! -Nicole

  2. Kerri says:

    I love these pics. Maple Syrup time is one of my favorite times of year! My Uncle makes syrup and I have helped him. Every part of the process is fun! We have a maple syrup festival in Vermontville, MI that is lots of fun. People come from all over to sample fresh locally made maple syrup! What a great time of year.

  3. Hi Nicole, This is Cathi (the Mountain Farmgirl)sending ‘sweet’ greetings your way! We are tapping up here in New Hampshire as well this week. It is one of my favorite rituals. The granola sounds yummy. So nice to read your posts. Happy boiling!

    Hi Cathi!  Thanks so much!  New Hampshire is a state on my "want to visit" list.  I haven’t made it up that far yet…bet you are getting snow your way, because it is here now!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Margaret says:

    What a fun time! You’ll look back on that many times in the years to come!

  5. Brenda says:

    My husband’s uncle taps trees but it is just a hobby and he does not get a lot of syrup. So we were excited to get picked to receive a quart jar last year.

  6. Debbie says:

    Hi Nicole!
    how fun for you and your family to participate in the syrup making process… We visited a local place last year as well where we learned how the sap made its way from the trees to the syrup jug! It was fun…Love your hands on photos!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe too…
    Deb ( your fellow MJFBeach blogger )

  7. Sue says:

    Hi Nicole!!

    I’m a Massachusetts Farm Girl wanna-be who is tapping trees for the first time ever with my grandson. We are having such a great time and though we are only getting a few bottles of this "liquid gold" it is a wonderful time spent together. I even made labels for the bottles. It all trial and error and I have experience some of my syrup crystalizing – oh well, maple candy!!

    Thanks for the great posts – I really enjoy them!!

    Sue – Hi there Massachusetts farmgirl!  Sounds like you and your grandson are making some great memories!  Thanks for reading!  -Nicole

  8. Nice article! Maple syrup is great to cook with and there are lots of recipes on the Vermont maple syrup website, Just click on "cooking with maple syrup" and then scroll down the recipes. Enjoy!

  9. We’re tapping trees here in Maine too. We only tap 3 trees and we use buckets and boil it down in small batches on the woodstove in the kitchen, so we just get enough for the family. The grandkids think it’s the coolest thing in the world to start with sap from the tree and turn it into yummy maple syrup. Tomorrow is Maine Maple Sunday when all the sugar houses open to the public and offer demonstrations and free samples, so I’m sure we’ll be stopping by a few and trying some samples.

  10. Maria says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your sugaring adventures! I’m a suburban gal (well, I live in a very small city, more of a town, really) but a girl can dream, right? 🙂

    Thanks, Maria, glad you enjoyed the blog!  -Nicole

  11. Heather says:

    We are tapping some birch trees for the first time. We attempted to find maples, but alas, none. So we thought we’d give it a go in a slightly nontraditional fashion (no one is surprised). It is so exciting to watch those bags fill up!! I can’t wait to start the boil:) Thanks for the websites and recipe. Enjoy!–Heather

    Heather, how great!  I did not know you could tap birch trees, as well!  I wonder what kind of taste you will get with the syrup?  Have fun!  -Nicole

  12. Shannon says:

    First the chickens, now this.
    Turns out I love you.
    I have a maple tree.

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