March is the month for maple syrup making in and around the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE) and the ten DINE inns invite guests to visit sugar shacks throughout New England. As the days get a little longer and the temps rise toward spring, Mother Nature zaps the sap and wakes up the maple trees from a long winter’s snooze. Why not combine a visit to a New England sugar house with some fine maple delights being served at DINE inns? Let’s explore how each of the New England states are celebrating maple sugaring month, and how a few inns will offer some maple recipes to serve from your own kitchen.
New England state by state maple celebrations
Each of the New England states work with an association of maple syrup producers to promote local maple products each year. From maple syrup’s liquid gold to maple sugar candies, maple candles and more, take some time to celebrate all things maple with purchases from local New England maple purveyors. Of course, throughout the March maple celebrations, all necessary Covid precautions are in place. Visitors will be asked to wear masks and practice social distancing while visiting maple producers’ events. Reservations may be necessary. Be sure to check before you go.
In Maine, Maine Maple Sunday® is a long-standing tradition where Maine’s maple producers open their doors to their sweet operations for a day of educational demonstrations, Sugarbush tours, fun family activities and samplings of syrup and other great maple products. This year, Maine Maple Sunday will be celebrated on March 28, 2021. More than 100 licensed sugarhouses offering some of the celebrations, and demonstrations happening statewide in honor of Maine’s official sweetener are listed here. Pair your visit to a Maine sugarhouse with stays at the Inn at English Meadows in Kennebunkport or the Camden Maine Stay Inn in Camden. There are plenty of sugar houses nearby!
In New Hampshire, New Hampshire Maple Producers have designated the entire month of March as Maple Sugaring Month. Throughout New Hampshire, sugar houses will be cooking up demonstrations and events for visitors. To find a sugarhouse near DINE’s New Hampshire inns, including Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield and Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness, simply click here.
Vermont Sugar Makers explain that they’ve made the decision to cancel Maple Open House Weekend this year to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Yet, they explain that there are many ways to celebrate maple, even in a year without Maple Open House Weekend! The Vermont Sugar Makers suggest that visitors call their favorite sugar maker and see if they’re open to guests. Some individual businesses may be open for demonstrations. Also, you can support your Vermont sugar makers by purchasing their syrup and other maple products too. Combine your visit to a Vermont maple producer with a visit to Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford, VT or Grafton Inn in Grafton, VT this year, for the sweetest romantic getaway of the year!
Dozens of sugarhouses across Massachusetts will be open for Massachusetts Maple Weekend, March 20-21 according to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. This weekend is a great opportunity to learn how maple products are made, talk to a sugarmaker, and bring home some delicious pure maple products. The association suggests that you call ahead to see if appointments are needed or other accommodations are being made to ensure social distancing. Click here for a list and map of participating sugar houses. While you’re in Massachusetts, consider staying at one of the three DINE members in the state: In Western Mass, the Deerfield Inn, in Chatham, Cape Cod, the Captain’s House Inn and in Marblehead, the Harbor Light Inn.
Finally, in Connecticut, the Maple Syrup Producers Association made the following announcement, “Late winter and early spring mark the production of the state’s first agricultural product, maple syrup. Sap from maple trees is collected and turned into delicious syrup and other products. Come see how it’s made and celebrate all things maple for the first ever Maple Weekend. Tour local sugarhouses and learn the process. Meet the maple syrup producers, taste a sample, and purchase CT Grown products. Maple Weekend runs from March 20th to the 21st.” A complete town by town listing of all participating maple syrup producers may be found here. Why not combine Maple Weekend in Connecticut with a getaway to Niantic’s Inn at Harbor Hill Marina? It’s a great way to kick off spring!
And just to make this posting even more valuable, we’ve gathered some great recipes from inns utilizing maple sugar and syrup as the key ingredient.
Maple Dream Cookie Recipe from Rabbit Hill Inn
If you’re a maple fan – this maple cookie recipe will soon be your favorite, says innkeeper, Leslie Mulcahy. These Maple Dream cookies are soft, moist, and really addictive. Serve this cookie with ice cream for a very special dessert.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees / Recipe yields approx 48 cookies
Cookie Batter Ingredients: Have parchment paper on hand
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup shortening
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp maple syrup (or extract if necessary)
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup white chocolate morsels
In large bowl, cream together butter and shortening. Add brown sugar and mix until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla and maple syrup. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Thoroughly blend this flour mixture with the creamed mixture. Add the pecans and white chocolate morsels. Mix well.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until cookie edges begin to golden in color. Remove pan from oven and let cool for three minutes. Then, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool fully.
Frosting Ingredients: Make ahead and set aside
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 – 8 Tbsp milk
1 tsp maple syrup (or extract)
1 cup pecan halves
In medium bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and butter. Mix well.
Stir in maple syrup and milk until you achieve a thick frosting consistency.
Frost each cookie and place a pecan half on top.
Homemade Maple Cheesecake from Chesterfield Inn
2 cups ground graham crackers
1/2 t. cinnamon
6 T. melted butter
3 8-ounce pkgs. cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3 T. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 c. reduced maple syrup (1 cup maple syrup, simmered 4 minutes to reduce and concentrate flavor)
2/3 cup sour cream
2 T. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Add melted butter and stir until crumbs are evenly moistened.
Wrap outside of 9 inch spring form pan in aluminum foil so that the base and sides are covered and sealed.
Press crumb mixture into bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of the pan.
Bake about 10 minutes. Cool on rack.
For filling, beat cream cheese with electric mixer with paddle until very smooth.
Add brown sugar, flour and salt. Beat until blended and smooth.
Add reduced syrup, sour cream and vanilla. Beat until blended.
Add eggs, 2 at a time, and beat just until well blended after each addition.
Tap bowl on counter several times to release any air bubbles.
Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake cake in a water bath (pan of warm water about 1 inch up the sides of the pan) for 1 and a half hours.
Turn oven off, open door a few inches and let the cake sit in the oven for an hour.
Remove from oven and water bath and allow to cool on a rack.
Serve with fresh berries.
For additional recipes featuring mapleishousness from DINE kitchens, check these two recipe blogs:
Now it’s time to book your March getaway to any of the ten DINE inns, and enjoy some real New England maple syrup along with pure relaxation. Don’t forget to book directly with the inn when you make your reservation.
Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic