When Muriel and Lucien Blais’ grandchildren come to visit they always request the same thing for breakfast: blueberry pancakes with Papa’s syrup.
The Blais have been sugaring — that is, making maple syrup — for three generations. Muriel’s great uncle Lazarre Bisson started tapping sugar maple trees in the ’20s with his nephew Armand Bisson and the Bisson Sugar House was born. That was back in the day of hand cranked drills and metal buckets.
Lucien and Muriel Blais when they first started making syrup
Sugaring season starts around March and April when the weather turns warm during the day but still freezes over night. “Warm” in the north country is around 40 degrees. On average, it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup.
Little at Bisson’s Sugar House has physically changed since Lazarre and Armand first started. There are still the same benches, same sign, same wood-burning stove, same smell of split birch logs and sap. Sure, technology has advanced — Muriel and Lucien no longer collect sap in buckets, but use a system of plastic tubing to tap the trees — but for Berliners, Bisson’s remains a fixture in the community.
And the syrup, well, let’s just say that I have been eating a lot of pancakes lately.