How A Natural Disaster Inspired New England's Maple Hurricane Sauce

It's known locally as The Great Hurricane. In September 1938, what began as a small storm over the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast became one of the most damaging and deadly natural disasters in the history of New England (per the National Weather Service). The Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts recorded sustained winds of 121 mph; waves reached 50 feet off the coast of Gloucester; 2 billion trees were uprooted; and 63,000 New Englanders were left homeless. 700 people were killed.

As the New England state with the shortest coastline (13 miles, according to Yankee Magazine), New Hampshire was more affected by high winds and heavy rainfall than coastal flooding. According to the New England Historical Society, extreme winds destroyed parts of Mount Washington's famous Cog Railway. In the northwestern corner of the state, in a little village called Sugar Hill, winds had shaken apples from the trees, littering the ground with precious fruit (via Atlas Obscura). In the aftermath of the disaster, two Sugar Hill natives, burdened with an abundance of apples, did what any enterprising Yankees would do. They took what nature had given them, and turned it into something special.

A New Hampshire icon is born

The Great Depression was still raging by the time the Great Hurricane blitzed through New England. In Sugar Hill, NH, according to Atlas Obscura, Wilfred "Sugar Bill" Dexter and his wife, Polly, had recently converted their maple farm's carriage shed into a small tea room called "Polly's Pancake Parlor." Using it as a way to highlight their maple products, they served pancakes, waffles, french toast — anything that could benefit from generous helpings of pure maple syrup. 

Now saddled with all the apples that had been knocked from their trees, the family sought to preserve the yield by cooking the apples in a concoction of melted butter and maple syrup. Thus, Maple Hurricane Sauce was born. Customers loved it then as they do now. Polly's Pancake Parlor, though moved to a new location, is a staple of the Sugar Hill community. And Maple Hurricane Sauce has become something of a well-traveled secret, with reviews on sites like RoadFood and PopSugar. You can makes it yourself at home, but the best way to experience it is to head on up to New Hampshire and try some for yourself.