By Lori Szepelak
WESTHAMPTON – The extreme cold the region has endured for several weeks is holding up production of maple syrup, according to Steve and Julie Holt, owners of Steve’s Sugar Shack at 34 North Road.
“We need cold nights and warm days in the 40s so the sap will run,” Steve Holt said during an early morning interview with Reminder Publications
on March 1.
On a shelf adjacent to the register where Julie Holt greets visitors and takes orders, a sign next to the three half gallons of pure maple syrup read “First run of the year … only run so far! But there will be more soon!”
Steve Holt’s dream of building a sugar shack came to fruition more than 12 years ago and by the crowds gathered on this Saturday morning, the word has spread about their hearty breakfasts and signature topping – maple syrup.
“The blueberry pancakes are delicious,” noted Owen Connor, 8, of Westhampton, who sat patiently awaiting his breakfast with his family.
His sister, Lily, 5, was also eager to dig into her pancakes and added with a big smile, “We like to take some maple syrup home.”
The sugar shack sits atop a hillside and once inside, the steam from the sap boiling makes one feel right at home and anxious to hear Steve Holt explain the maple sugaring process.
Holt learned how to tap trees and make maple syrup when he was 12, and enjoys keeping the tradition alive in town. He explains the maple sugaring process from tapping the trees, to gathering the sap, boiling it down, and lastly, giving sample tastes of the warm syrup.
Julie Holt noted that what sets their business apart from others are the long tables where family and friends and neighbors and visitors can sit together like one big family.
“When you are here it is like a giant community supper,” she said, adding, “It’s joyful here.”
Miriam Howland of Southampton, a regular visitor to the sugar shack, echoed those sentiments.
“I come every Saturday during the season for the fellowship,” Howland said, with her arms full of half gallons of maple syrup and maple cream – for herself and a cousin in Washington State.
The sugar shack is decorated with antique hand tools including saws, drills, and hand plows, and on this morning, perky daffodils graced each table in petite clear vases. The wait staff was attentive and meals were served piping hot in quick fashion.
Breakfast menu items include pancakes, French toast, eggs, home fries, bacon and sausage, and a variety of beverages. Cash and checks are accepted. Pure maple products sold also include maple cream and maple candy.
Breakfast is served weekends from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. through the April 13.
In addition to Steve’s Sugar Shack, the region boasts several restaurants featuring their signature maple syrup, including:
• Williams Farm Sugarhouse, Deerfield, 773-5186, williamsfarmsugarhouse.com
, on Routes 5 & 10, 1/4 mile south of Historic Deerfield Village. Open to mid-April. Pancake breakfasts served daily. Sugarhouse tours available. Maple products available all year.
• Maple Corner Farm, Granville, 357-8829, firstname.lastname@example.org
, 794 Beech Hill Road, 1.5 miles west of Blandford Center off Route 23. Maple products available all year. Maple museum, sugarhouse tours and restaurant open weekends to mid-April. Cross country skiing available.
• North Hadley Sugar Shack, Hadley, 585-8820, northhadleysugarshack.com
, 181 River Dr. From Route 9 take Route 47 north approximately three miles. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only through mid-April serving pancake breakfasts.
• Pomeroy’s Sugarhouse, Westfield, 568-3484, pomeroysugarhouse.com
, 491 Russellville Road. Follow signs from Route 10 & 202. Breakfast served; visitors can pet farm animals at the working dairy farm.
• Hanging Mountain Farm, Westhampton, 527-3210, hangingmountainfarms.com
, 188 North Road. Take Route 66 west from Northampton about six miles. Take right onto North Loudville Road, just after bridge. Turn right at stop sign onto North Road, one mile to sugarhouse on left. Breakfast served in unique straw bale building.
• High Hopes Sugarhouse, Worthington, 238-5919, highhopesmaple.com
, 1132 Huntington Road at Huntington/Worthington town line. Gift Shop with local crafts. “All you can eat” sugarhouse buffet. Serving 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends through mid-April.
• The Red Bucket Sugar Shack, Worthington, 238-7710, off Route 112, drive 2.7 miles S to 584 Kinne Brook Road. Pancake restaurant open weekends through mid-April.
• Windy Hill Farm, Worthington, 238-5378, located on Sam Hill Road off Route 112 in Worthington, one mile south of lights. Breakfast served during sugaring season. A full line of maple products also available for purchase.
Also, Storrowton Village Museum’s eighth annual Maple Harvest Day is planned March 16 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The day explores the history of maple sugaring with demonstrations of sugar maple tree tapping, sumac spile making, and sap boiling over an open fire. Inside the historic Gilbert Farmstead on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition, Memorial Avenue, West Springfield, docents will demonstrate 19th century open hearth cooking, as well as quilting and spinning wool. A selection of gifts, maple-themed items and cookbooks, will be available for sale.
In conjunction with the Maple Harvest Day at Storrowton Village, the West Springfield Lions Club will host a pancake breakfast from 10 a.m. to noon in the village’s Red Barn. Tickets are $5 per person. All proceeds will be donated to the museum’s educational programs. Also, Storrowton Tavern will offer a Sunday Brunch in the Carriage House and reservations are recommended. Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for children.
For more details on Storrowton Village events, visit www.thebige.com or call 205-5051.
With such a short season to enjoy the state’s sweetest crop, take time with family and friends to mingle with our fellow New Englanders as they welcome you to share their joy of the first true “rite of spring.”
For more information on the state maple season, visit the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association website at massmaple.org