One of my intriguing visits in the New England, U.S.A. area involved sweets – maple sweets that is. These are some of the best tasting and healthiest sweets I could find while checking out the various farms throughout Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
One of my favorite farms is the Ioka Valley Farm at Hancock, Massachusetts, located in the southeast west part of this beautiful New England state.
The farm’s 2018 maple season activities began February 10 and they will be closing their activities by mid-April. During my previous visit I became interested in how the maple syrup was heated and processed, and certainly had to taste the various maple treats.
Miss Terri, who is a healthy, vibrant, late-70s young adult was knowledgeable and very enlightening. She was the perfect ambassador. She even mentioned how she would ride miles every day on her bicycle and stop along the way to sip her maple drink for added energy. She reiterated that the maple sugar provides an excellent energy boost that is balanced and doesn’t create a sugar rush that we sometimes experience with other sweets.
Ioka Valley Farm (http://www.iokavalleyfarm.com/) is a diversified family-owned and operated working farm that prides itself in providing “high quality, locally grown products for all ages.” They provide natural, hormone-free beef and various other products. One of the specialties I focused on was the maple syrup and candies. I couldn’t resist! Although the maple sap gathering is for a short season they sell the products year-round. Thank also don’t want to over-tap the trees.
One of the sugarmakers provided some insight about the syrup. Interestingly, the tank receives the sap from the hundreds of trees in the small mountain behind the farm. It flows through the tubes into an initial processing unit and then flows in the heating tank. I still don’t fully understand the science behind the process but I was intrigued.
The farm had recently purchased a larger tank to heat and process the sap due to higher demand. The larger tank provides much more production over the smaller, older one, enabling significantly more syrup to be processed and distributed during the short season.
Final processing into varied products, packaging and shipping is accomplished right in the shop next to the processing equipment. The small store is connected to the plant as well.
I enjoyed our little visit to the Ioka Valley Farm. I wish I could have bought a sampling of each product.
I did not realize the types of syrup neither – like the amber and dark. I couldn’t decide which one I liked best after sampling them. I think the amber is the best for me though. It sure does sweeten the pancakes or waffles. And, have you tried maple cream on your toast? Yummy!
Deep Mountain Maple informs us that maple syrup color relates to its grade. If the syrup is dark then it has a stronger flavor. There are four main grades in Vermont – from light to dark: Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber and Grade B. I tasted the four grades and they are distinguishable, although they are produced by the same process.
According to http://deepmountainmaple.com/maple-facts-and-fictions maple syrup is made by boiling the thin, slightly sweet sap of the sugar maple tree in large, shallow pans over a very hot fire. It flows like water from the tapped trees. After the sap is boiled until most of the water has evaporated, the remain product is a concentrated or “reduced” syrup. “As much as 40-45 gallons of sap are needed to produce one gallon of syrup,” stated the Deep Mountain Maple website.
I’m sure there are similar farms and maple producing plants around-the-world but this was my first experience with visiting one of the farms. What are your experiences?