Maple Syrup Time in New Hampshire

Now that we’re living in New England again, we are thrilled to be able to experience maple sugaring season right in the heart of maple sugaring territory – New Hampshire. There are loads of small scale sugar houses in our area and the sap is running as I write this.

Last weekend we visited one of our favorite local museums, The Remick Museum in Tanworth. A farm museum they produce their own maple syrup tapped from their own trees. They hosted their Maple Sugar Festival this past Saturday and we were there soaking in all the fun. They had various demonstrations that showed the development of how maple syrup was made starting with the extremely tedious method of the Native Americans prior to European contact. Think hot rocks thrown into wooden troughs of sap!

Native American method of making maple sugar

Today maple syrup making is very sanitary, but certainly not as picturesque as some of the progression of methods we saw at the museum. We all got to sample the amazing syrup they produce and sell at the Remick. It was pure bliss! So much better than the syrup we get in the store – even the “pure” syrup we buy. Fresh is always better.

Sampling fresh syrup

The history of maple syrup in American is nicely summed up on this website from the Massachusetts Maple Growers. Yes, it was the Native Americans who taught the colonists about this locally produced sweetener.  The history of sweeteners such as sugar, molasses, and maple syrup is complicated. But from what I’ve read in carefully documented sources, they all were used equally from the Colonial period up through World War I when the price of sugar plummeted, making sugar the sweetener of choice.

Many not so well researched websites and books will tell you that sugar was too expensive for most to use and therefore maple syrup and molasses were the main sweeteners. When you look at the primary documentation found in advertisements, store ledgers, etc. a different picture emerges that shows sugar being available and sold just as readily as the other two choices of sweeteners. Sadly, the quaint notion that the early settlers had to rely on maple syrup and molasses will be hard to put to rest.

Be that as it may, I came home enthused to use maple syrup from a vintage recipe. It’s not hard to guess, that the recipes I found were in my New England based vintage cook books. A 1939 Out of Vermont Kitchens cook book had Maple Pudding, Maple Parfait and Maple Walnut Tapioca. Yummy, but they either called for maple sugar which I don’t have on hand or were frozen desserts which I didn’t want to attempt. My go to cook book, The New England Yankee Cookbook, dated  1939 also has a slew of recipes. 27 in fact! I chose Maple Butternut Tea Cakes. 

Essentially these are cupcakes and boy are they good! I didn’t have butternuts so I substituted walnuts. Here’s the recipe:

 

 

 

 

 

Maple Butternut Tea Cakes (A Vermont Recipe)

  • 2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. butternut meats, finely cut (or walnuts)

Remove your butter from the refridgerator ahead of time to let it soften

Heat over to 350 degrees

Sift the flour and then measure it (this does make a difference!)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt

Cream the butter

Add sugar and cream thoroughly

Add eggs and beat well

Combine maple syrup and water and add alternatively with the flour to the sugar/cream/egg mixture

Beat well after each addition

Add vanilla and nuts

Bake in greased cupcake pans for about 20 minutes

Frost if desired (There’s a great maple frosting recipe but it called for 2 cups of maple syrup. At the price we now are paying for syrup I opted to not frost the cupcakes.) 

The result was heavenly moist cupcakes with a hint of maple syrup flavor. I’m sure if I had sprung to make the maple frosting that would have upped the maple flavor. But Dan and I were both extremely happy with the cup cakes as they were.

 

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