Rumford man wins syrup making contest

DIXFIELD – Randy and Rodney Hall were as sweet as they could be Friday after sampling 21 entries in Dixfield’s Bicentennial Homemade Maple Syrup Contest.

And more than a little bit sticky.

The East Dixfield brothers who own and operate Hall Farms Maple Products, a commercial Maine maple syrup producer, judged the samples at Towle’s Hardware on Main Street, ranking them according to thickness and flavor.

“By Maine state law, syrup has to be so thick,” Rodney Hall said, noting that the state minimum is 66.5 percent sugar. That means the maple syrup must be evaporated to a density greater than 66 percent sugar at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the entered sample met the thickness minimum, flavor became the determining factor for the top five contestants.

Ben Powers of Rumford took first place with his syrup sample, which had a thickness of 68 percent sugar. Carl Bunnell of Phillips, whose syrup had a sugar concentration of 67 percent, took second place, while Skip and Sharlene MacFawn of Peru placed third, meeting the state thickness minimum.

“When sap comes out of the tree, it’s 2.3 percent sugar. If it’s not boiled down as far as it’s supposed to be, it will develop mold on top,” and that’s not good, he added.

Thus, entries that didn’t meet the density minimum didn’t make it into the final round of second sampling. That ruled out seven of the contest entries.

Of the remainder, the sugar density ranged from minimum to David Thurston’s 75.5 percent. Thurston of Rumford took fourth place, while Kim Dailey of Dixfield placed fifth with a thickness of 69.5 percent.

“The top five were real, real close” in taste, Rodney Hall said to about 15 people gathered to watch the 30-minute process.

Although contest winners garnered bragging rights as well as Dixfield Bicentennial memorabilia, everyone received a Bicentennial pin and ribbon.

Once the judging was done and prizes awarded, the real fun began when co-organizer Charlotte Towle produced a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream and everyone sampled as much of the sweet treats as they dared.

“We had a fabulous turnout,” said co-organizer Charlotte Collins.

Entries came from the towns of Weld, Dixfield, South Carthage, Mexico, Rumford, Peru, Newry, New Vineyard, Phillips and Monmouth.


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