Sweet Times! Maple Weekend in New York State

Maple Weekend in New York State is March 17-18 and March 24-25. Sugar shacks sprinkled throughout the state open their doors for tours, pancake breakfasts and tastings... kind of like "open studio" for the art and craft of all things maple.

And a craft it really is. Next time you open a bottle of syrup to put on your waffles- think twice- most commercial grades a la Aunt Jemima are made from the lowest grade syrup added to copious amounts of corn syrup while the stuff that comes in the cute bottles and is super pricey--- that's the good stuff- the cream of the crop so to speak.

Many syrup businesses are small cottage ventures and many a seasonal offset for dairy farmers to bring in a few extra bucks during the Spring season. The syrup business is not for the frail - it is hard labor and a labor of love. The sweet stuff does not flow easily and taking it from tree to table is a monumental effort.

Contrary to what many think- maple season is early Spring, not Fall. Warm days of early Spring and cool nights make sap run- and it is the sap that we have come to know as maple syrup. First you need the trees, and lots of them! Sugar Maple and Black Maple are the most popular variety and to yield a great crop you need more than a bucket.

We had the sweet fortune of visiting Fairbanks Maple in Forestville, NY on Saturday and were amazed at just how elaborate the "tiny" operation is. With over 3,300 trees each tapped just once a season, there are what seems like miles of endless blue lines that run the sap from tree to tank.

Once collected, the sap is converted to syrup. When sap is first collected it is mostly water and the sap to syrup conversion happens when most of the water is boiled away. It takes over 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Packaging alone is a craft in and of itself. Similar to canning- issues of hygiene and proper sealing of the container must be precise to avoid contamination- if any introduction of air is released into the seal, the syrup is destroyed.

Next time you sit down to a hearty breakfast- think twice- and enjoy the sugary sweetness as you pour maple syrup- a truly sweet labor of love!


Here's a run down of maple syrup by quality and grade:

Grade A maple syrup is classified according to color. The darker the syrup, the stronger the maple taste.

Grade A Light Amber — the lightest of the three classifications with a mild and delicate flavor. It’s best for maple cream and molded maple sugar (candy).

Medium Amber — a bit darker with a fuller flavor. This is the most popular grade for table syrup.

Dark Amber — the darkest of the three grades has a stronger maple flavor. This all-purpose syrup is good for cooking, baking and table use.

Extra Dark — used for cooking, strongest maple flavor. Best for cooking.

Grade B — sold in bulk for reprocessing and the manufacture of commercial table syrups. Best for baking.
Source: Mapleweekend.com

Learn more here:
NY State Maple Producers Association
Cornell University Sugar Maple Research Program

Photos taken at Fairbanks Maple: Forestville, NY - (716) 965-4208
Photo #1: via getentrepreneurial.com

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin