Maple-sugar season occurs about the first week in March when days become warmer but nights are still frigid. A drive along maple-lined back roads reveals thousands of taps and buckets catching the labored flow of unrefined sap. Plumes of smoke rise from nearby sugarhouses, where "sugaring off," the process of boiling down this precious liquid, takes place. Many sugarhouses are open to the public; after a tour and demonstration, you can sample the syrup.
Bascom Maple Farm. Bascom Maple Farm has been family-run since 1853 and produces more maple syrup than anyone in New England. Visit the 2,200-acre farm and get maple products from candy to syrup. 56 Sugarhouse Rd., Alstead, 03602. 603/835-6361. www.bascommaple.com.
Stuart & John's Sugar House & Pancake Restaurant. Stuart & John's Sugar House & Pancake Restaurant conducts a tour and sells syrup and maple gifts in a roadside barn. It also serves breakfast, lunch, and ice cream weekends mid-February-April and mid-September-November. Junction Routes 12 and 63, Westmoreland, 03467. 603/399-4486. www.stuartandjohnssugarhouse.com.
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