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Farm Share: Husband-wife duo have been producing maple treats for more than 40 years

  • Milt Severance boils down the sap at Severance Maple Products in Northfield. Local restaurants like the Four Leaf Clover use Severance syrup. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Milt Severance boils down the sap at Severance Maple Products in Northfield. Local restaurants like the Four Leaf Clover use Severance syrup. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Try creating maple squash at home using the recipe in today’s column. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Robin Severance makes her maple squash recipe at Severance Maple Products in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Robin Severance’s original, handwritten recipe for maple squash shown at Severance Maple Products in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Matt Pollard of Erving fills the arch at Severance Maple Products in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • WEISBLAT



For the Recorder
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

At the age of 17, Milt Severance of Northfield decided to try tapping a few maple trees on his mother’s property on Pierson Road. A friend helped out.

“We tapped a couple of trees, and then we tapped some more trees and more trees — and we kept growing and growing and growing,” he said.

Almost 40 years later, he is still harvesting sap. The technology of sugaring has changed; Severance now uses fewer buckets, relying mostly on pipelines and pumps. He has installed a reverse-osmosis system to cut down on boiling time, and he boils very efficiently.

“The older you get, the smarter you have to sugar,” he said. “We embrace technology, but there are still the people that want to look out the window and see buckets on their trees.”

Severance produces about 1,200 gallons of syrup a year. He turns a lot of it into various products, from maple sugar and maple cream to the maple products he sells at craft fairs around the state: maple candy, maple cotton candy, maple lemonade, maple cream, maple jelly and maple peanut brittle.

He is helped in marketing the products by his wife, Robin. “I thought maple syrup was what you bought at the A&P because I grew up in the city,” Robin Severance told me, referring to the grocery store chain. “I learned that there’s nothing like the real stuff.”

The two divide their labor efficiently, she explained. “We have three sugar machines right now. He pumps it out. He makes everything, and I sell. I’m the people person, and he’s the maple man.”

Both Severances have full-time jobs. She works as a patient service representative; he works as a crane operator. “Except in February and March,” he noted with a smile.

The Severances’ sugarhouse on Pierson Road will be open for Massachusetts Maple Weekend on March 17 to 18. Their products are also available at a variety of stores in and around Northfield, and customers can call and ask to stop by after work to purchase syrup and sugar.

Local restaurants like the Four Leaf Clover use Severance syrup. Robin Severance proudly informed me that nearby Cameron’s Winery has come up with a maple wine that uses the syrup as well.

Much of the Severances’ marketing takes place at fairs and craft fairs, mostly in the fall. They bring “a little sugarhouse on wheels” to these events, where they find new customers but also satisfy the needs of people who have been purchasing their products for years.

“There are people that we see at these different shows who will buy a year’s worth of sugar at a time,” Robin Severance observed. “People are pretty loyal. If they find a good product that they think that they’re getting at a reasonable price, they come back.”

“They come looking for us,” her husband added. “And if (the fairs) move our spot, and the people can’t find us, they’re not happy.”

Not surprisingly, the Severances use a lot of maple in their day-to-day cooking. Robin Severance cooks her Thanksgiving turkey with maple syrup each year. She also loves to spread a mixture of syrup and mustard on chicken she grills.

They shared two maple recipes with me. One is a perennial favorite at the shows they attend: maple lemonade. The other is a perfect comfort-food formula from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association: maple-glazed butternut squash.

Severance maple lemonade

Ingredients:

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup maple syrup

6 cups water

Instructions:

Combine the lemon juice and maple syrup and stir in the water. Serve over ice. Makes ½ gallon.

Maple-glazed butternut squash

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, quartered and cut into ½-inch slices

4 tablespoons (¼ cup) maple syrup

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons (¼ cup) dark rum

⅔ cup water

Instructions:

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the squash is tender. Reserving the cooking liquid, transfer the squash pieces with a slotted spoon to a warm serving dish. Boil the cooking liquid until it thickens and then pour it over the squash. Serves 4.

Food writer Tinky Weisblat of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and the forthcoming “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” For more information about Tinky, visit her website: www.TinkyCooks.com.