Dozens of sugar shacks across New Hampshire are opening up to visitors for Maple Weekend. A typical operation is Courser Farm’s Sugar King’s shack in Warner. The building is dominated by a huge wood-powered syrup boiler. Visitors pack in almost shoulder-to-shoulder sampling cups of syrup and homemade donuts. Penny Courser is one of several family members who pitch in for the weekend. She says they expect to see anywhere from 200 to 500 people for the weekend.
We asked Douglas Whynott to stay a few extra minutes for a sticky challenge: a blind maple syrup taste-test. The aim was to test his ability to distinguish between the various grades of maple syrup. We sat down with five cups paper cups - three were filled with varieties of grade “A” amber – light, medium, and dark. There was also a cup with grade “B” syrup, which has a stronger maple flavor and has traditionally been used for cooking, and of course the ringer – a brand-name artificial syrup. And because you can tell a lot by the color of syrup, both Douglas and I donned blindfolds for the occasion – well, not blindfolds exactly. Our producers tied one of my scarves around Doug’s head, and I wore my winter hat over my eyes, to prevent any accidental or intentional cheating. For good measure, we videotaped the taste test, so you can see for yourselves, there was NO cheating.