KINGSTON, NY — The Senate House State Historic Site kicked off spring Saturday with an event called “Sugaring Off: 18th Century Style.”
Crowds, comprised mostly of families, but also some curious onlookers who wandered in, stopped by to see a number of demonstrations. They included including boiling off the water in maple syrup, a process known as “sugaring off.” The event returned after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Visitors could also chat with members of the First Ulster Militia. The militia members were demonstrating various aspects of Revolutionary War-era military life, including cooking, medicine and musket firing with one “double-charged” round going off with a cannon-sized bang and a ring of white smoke.
Over on the other side of the site, Dan Foster, of Woodstock, a volunteer at the Senate House, wore modern clothing while hollowing out a log to use as a vessel to hold maple sap before sugaring. He said metal buckets were expensive during that period and it was more affordable for a farmer just to chop down a tree and use tools such as an ax to hollow it out into a vessel to hold the maple sap.
Foster said it takes a lot of maple juice to make maple syrup, noting it takes 40 gallons of maple juice to make a gallon of maple syrup.
Next to him, the Rev. Chris Berean, also a volunteer at Senate House, was smoking meat the traditional way using a fire and a barrel with little gaps to allow smoke out. Smoke from a fire would go through a pipe and into the barrel. Smoke poured out of a lid on the barrel as the meat hung on a rod inside.
“You wanted an old barrel to have gaps for the smoke to escape,” said Berean, the pastor of St. Mary’s, St. John’s the Evangelist and St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic churches in Saugerties.
Berean, a history major in college, said that, with no mechanical refrigeration or even ice boxes, smoking meat to remove moisture and adding a ton of salt were the only ways to preserve and protect it.
And he said there was no need to worry about animals coming by during the smoking process. “Animals are deathly afraid of fire,” he said.
Robyn Sedgwick was demonstrating historic cooking. The demonstrations included offering samples of a Dutch-style bread that visitors could put maple syrup on. She explained what the Dutch colonists would eat in a typical day.
“The Dutch would have a slice of bread and perhaps a slice of cheese for breakfast, then have their hardiest meal, perhaps a stew at lunchtime, then have pancakes for dinner,” she said. “They weren’t a breakfast food.”
Megan and Rick Sarthou, of Kingston, who came with their daughter, Margot, were just happy to return to the event after visiting the Kingston Farmers Market.
“We’re really excited to see it back,” Megan Sarthou said.
Photos: Senate House in Kingston hosts ‘Sugaring Off: 18th Century Style’