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Short Hops

Pancakes, syrup, and centuries of sugaring off in Sturbridge

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March 9, 2008

STURBRIDGE - Visitors to Old Sturbridge Village this weekend and next can see how families in the 1830s turned maple sap into sugar in that quintessentially New England process known as "sugaring off." Interpreters in period costume will tap trees and boil the sap over open fires at the village's outdoor sugar camp from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Oliver Wight Tavern will offer a free pancake breakfast with the price of admission on both Saturdays from 8 to 10:30 a.m. There will also be hearthside cooking demonstrations using maple products.

In the early 1800s, homemade maple sugar was cheaper than cane sugar, which was imported from the West Indies, said Adam Halterman, the site's coordinator of agriculture. New England farm families usually tapped around 100 trees and made 400 pounds of sugar each season. "Sugaring off" refers to the final step of the process, when the syrup is sufficiently reduced to cool into a "loaf" of sugar. While sugar maples have sweeter sap, red maples are more abundant in the area, so the village uses both, Halterman said.

Maple Days, March 16, 17, 22, and 23, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Old Sturbridge Village, 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge. 508-347-3362, 800-733-1830, osv.org. Adults $20, seniors $18, children ages 3-17 $6, under 3 free. Directions: Sturbridge is 60 miles, or about an hour, from Boston. Take Interstate 90 (Mass. Pike) west to exit 9. Take the first right after tolls onto Route 20 west. Stay in the right-hand lane and follow signs to the village.

ELLEN ALBANESE

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