Westminster Historical Society and Bean Family Farm came together to host an event at the Sugar Shack on Saturday. Guests could stop by to see how maple
Westminster Historical Society and Bean Family Farm came together to host an event at the Sugar Shack on Saturday. Guests could stop by to see how maple sap gets boiled down into syrup. Above, Bennett Chadbourne explains the process of making maple syrup to a group.

WESTMINSTER -- Not much syrup will remain once the steam clears from the "Sugar Shack" at the Baile an Chotaigh Farm -- but that means they did it right.

"We're pretty much boiling off 39 gallons of water for one gallon of syrup," Bennett Chadbourne said.

Chadbourne, one of the partners at Baile an Chotaigh Farm, showed visitors the process of making maple syrup Saturday morning at the farm on 10 Harrington Road during an event sponsored by the Westminster Historical Society.

The process has its roots in Westminster history, according to Betsy Hannula, one of the board directors at the historical society.

"Our mission is to save and share Westminster's history, and maple-sugaring has been happening here for three centuries, so it's an important early part of the heritage," she said.

Guests who stopped by the Sugar Shack got a first-hand look at how maple sap gets boiled down into syrup; glass bottles display some of the sweet,
Guests who stopped by the Sugar Shack got a first-hand look at how maple sap gets boiled down into syrup; glass bottles display some of the sweet, delicious maple syrup; and Mia Landry samples ice cream topped with syrup. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ASHLEY GREEN

Today, Baile an Chotaigh Farm is one of about a half-dozen groups in the area that still make their own maple syrup. The historic process is also a difficult one, Hannula said.

"You can't appreciate spending 60 bucks for a gallon of maple syrup until you learn how much work it is," she said. "It's not an easy thing to do."

Chadbourne, who started making his own maple syrup several years ago, said the first step is to tap the trees by drilling an inch or two in the trunk and collecting the clear sap in a bucket.

"The tree is actually trying to heal itself," he said. "When a human bleeds the blood is trying to clot and the sap is actually trying to heal the wound"

The sap is typically collected in February and March, when the temperature is above freezing, around 40 degrees, during the day and below freezing, around 20 degrees, at night.


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Most of the trees Chadbourne taps are red or sugar maples in Westminster, though he also uses a few in Gardner.

The sap, which is basically watered down syrup, must then be boiled down, he said.

"Pure maple syrup is a lot more watery (than store-bought syrup) because it's just pure sugar," he said. "It's not corn starch or corn sugar or cane sugar or anything that they add."

The sap is placed in an evaporator and, once most of the water has been removed, the remaining substance is poured through a cone into a pot and boiled.

"It's a little bit more controlled heat and we can stop it and test it," he said.

Once the syrup reaches the desired density, it's ready to be poured on pancakes or anything else. No additional ingredients are needed, Chadbourne said.

Baile an Chotaigh Farm makes only 12 to 15 gallons of syrup annually, and the product, mostly sold to friends and family from the Sugar Shack, goes fast.

"We're a small producer, so pretty much when we make it it's gone," he said.

However, he always has enough for his pancakes.

"That's one of the perks of it," he said. "You get good maple syrup."

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