Maple Experience Programs
Maple sugaring in spring is a New England tradition reaching back to the first European settlers and the Native Americans who taught them about the secrets of the sugar maple tree. Why is syrup made from sugar maples? And why is it only made in springtime, when the snow melts away from the wooded landscape?
The New Hampshire Maple Experience at The Rocks Estate reveals the answers to these questions and more, all while entertaining visitors of all ages. Whether you've made your own maple syrup before or just like to eat it, you're guaranteed to discover something new.
The program begins in one of the many historic farm buildings at The Rocks with a presentation about the origins of maple sugaring (the process of turning the sap of a sugar maple tree into the stuff you pour over your pancakes on Saturday mornings).
From that introduction, visitors move outside, where you'll be challenged to figure out which of the surrounding trees are sugar maples, and invited to help tap a tree to collect the sap. It doesn't matter whether you're a kid, a 20-something, or a senior citizen - drilling just below the tree's bark to release the flow of sweet sap is magically satisfying. In fact, it's often the adults who step up to the drilling task, while the little ones entertain themselves in adjacent snow piles and mud puddles.
A horse-drawn carriage ride brings visitors through The Rocks, along maple-lined lanes and fields of Christmas trees. There, you'll learn the different types of tree species growing on the farm, along with the names of the one-ton horses pulling the wagon. The horses leave Maple Experience-goers at the sugar house, which sits in the former Sawmill/Pig pen building at The Rocks (another story awaiting telling).
Inside, you'll find Brad Presby, a fourth-generation sugarer, amid the maple-scented steam of the sugar house boiler. Brad will fill your head with the ins and outs of making maple syrup - from collecting the sap to bottling and grading the finished product. How many gallons of sap does it take to make a quart of syrup for your breakfast table? How long does it take to boil all that sap down to the finished product? You'll find out here.
Next door to the sugar house is the Maple Museum, chockfull of generations of sugaring gear, from the wooden taps and buckets of yesteryear to the plastic tubing and metal holding tanks of today's sugaring process. This is no hands-off museum; in fact, we encourage you to touch and feel, look and learn, read and discover.
The Maple Experience will fill the better part of a morning or afternoon. We suggest allowing 3-4 hours to enjoy it fully. And to sweeten the deal, we have local chefs hosting live cooking-with-maple demonstrations each day at noon. Again, this is a full participation aspect of the Experience, with visitors invited to add ingredients, help mix the recipe, and sample the finished product. (You'll find recipes here.)
Of course, no true maple program would be complete without a taste of pure New Hampshire maple syrup. We suggest you try it with the traditional pairing of fresh homemade donuts and sour pickles to offset all that sweetness. We bet you'll want more than one taste. You may just want to come back and do it all again tomorrow.