Best Places for Maple Sugaring/Syrup in Upstate NY & the Adirondacks
Maple Sugaring Season: Best Sugar Houses, Farms & Maple Syrup in Upstate NY & the Adirondacks
It’s that time of year again—time to take advantage of the not quite spring/not quite winter temperatures and tap into (pun intended) one of the most delicious natural treats available to us. Made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees, the making of maple syrup is a long-standing tradition in the Northeast. In cold climate areas, the trees store starch in their stems and roots before the winter. As winter wanes, the starch is subsequently converted to sugar, and ultimately rises in the sap in the spring. This fluctuation in air temperature—freezing at night versus above freezing in the daytime—is vital to the flow of sap in sugar maple trees. Historically speaking, maple syrup was first collected and used by Native Americans and the Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and was later adopted by European settlers. Rumor has it that the discovery of maple candy was an utter mistake that came about when someone burned the syrup while warming it.
Here’s another little-known fact about maple syrup. While well worth it, many people wonder why syrup is so expensive, and the answer to that is the high ratio (approx. 40:1) of how many gallons of sap it takes to make just one gallon of syrup. Another fun fact? Each tablespoon of pure maple syrup contains 21 mg calcium, 35 mg potassium, only 2 mg sodium, small amounts of iron and phosphorus, and a trace of B vitamins. Best of all, each tablespoon has only 50 calories per serving.
As this exciting season approaches, many sugar shacks and farms around the region will be celebrating the history of the process and the various delicious forms it has taken on during Maple Weekend 2011 (3/19-3/20 & 3/26-37). Maple Weekend (which actually takes place over two weekends) will be occurring throughout NY state and is hosted by the New York State Maple Producers Association.
Here’s our picks for places to check out during Maple Sugaring Season:
Toad Hill Maple Farm in Athol, NY. Toad Hill is one of the leading maple sugar producers in the Adirondacks with year-round output. They use a state of the art production system, and visitors to Maple Weekend will get to experience modern maple sugaring and learn how they make some of the best maple products available. Visitors will also get the chance to sample a variety of products for free. If the weather cooperates, guests will get to see sap flowing from the sugar bush and gain an understanding of the overall production process. www.toadhillmaple.com
Also around the corner in Thurman is Valley Road Maple Farm. Sugar makers Mike Hill and Ralph Senecal boil in a new state-of-the-art sugarhouse and have 1,500 taps on vacuum with reverse osmosis. They have a full line of maple products including syrup, cream, candy, sugar and their delicious-sounding maple cotton candy. For more info on what they are offering in the coming weeks, call 518-623-9783 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kent’s Sugar House in Berlin, NY will also be demonstrating the entire process from the tree to the table, with samples. Maple syrup, maple cream, sugar and candy will be for sale. Their system includes 1000 taps all on tubing, and a 3×10 ft. wood fired evaporator with a steam-away. As a special treat you can see a team of oxen, with the special names of Maple and Syrup. For further info, call 518-658-2134 or email email@example.com.
Highland Maple Farm in Argyle has approximately 2,500 taps on their well-established sugar bush. In addition to their award-winning maple syrup, they also make soft maple sugar, granulated maple sugar and maple cotton. For Maple Weekend, they’ll have plenty of maple treats on “tap” at their open house to welcome visitors. In addition to having several samples for tasting, they’ll be demonstrating the use of the evaporator, reverse osmosis, their vacuum system, and the tubing network. For further info, call 518-638-8586.
The Dry Brook Sugar House nearby in Salem, NY welcomes visitors year round. Witness the bottling of maple syrup and bask in its yummy smell; if you’re lucky, you might meet John Chambers Jr. who will explain how it was done in the ‘old days. Dry Brook will also be holding their annual pancake breakfasts during the upcoming Maple Weekends. Weather permitting, you can also partake of some horse drawn sleigh and wagon rides. If you can’t make it for the open house, tours are available during sugaring season for school children and adults alike. The farm offers wagon rides to some of their taps and even ice cream with warm syrup at the end of the day. Maple syrup, cream and candy are available for purchase year round. www.drybrooksugarhouse.com
Also located in Salem is the well-known Mapleland Farms, which will host celebratory Open Houses in the coming weeks. They credit eastern New York State as “a place where the climate, soil, and forest have come together to produce remarkable maple syrup.” Mapleland Farms specializes in customized wedding favors and gift baskets for birthdays, holidays or any occasion, and they offer year-round free tours and tastings as well. Their Open Houses will take place this year from 9am-4 pm. Breakfast is available 9am-1pm. Guests can watch maple syrup being made and indulge in an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with syrup right off the evaporator. Weather permitting, on March 19 and 20 from 9am-1pm; Mapleland Farms will have some very special guests—alpacas! www.maplelandfarms.com
Up a little further north in Lake Placid is the Golden Arrow, which has recently introduced a new program. Maple trees in Lake Placid get tapped and the sap is brought to Golden Arrow’s processing hut, where it’s boiled down to syrup and taken through the remainder of the process. The Golden Arrow also serves as a resort, allowing guests who want a “taste” of the process to stay overnight at the resort and partake in their maple sugaring package. The package runs through April 22 and features an overnight stay, as well as a 3-hour tour and lesson on maple sugaring; you’ll also get the chance to tap some trees and participate hands-on in the maple sugaring experience yourself. The experience, however, is also open to all who reside in or visit the community. www.golden-arrow.com
Other good choices include Maple Valley Farm in Corinth (518-654-9752); Nightingale’s Maple Farm in Galway (518-882-9334); Adirondack Gold Maple Farm in Thurman (www.adkgoldmaple.com); Grottoli’s Maple in Granville (518-642-2856); Rascher’s Sugar House in Shushan (518-854-3770); Rathbun’s Maple Sugar House in Granville (www.rathbunsmaple.com); Sugar Mill Farm in Greenwich (518-692-2486); and Wild Hill Maple in Salem (518-854-7272)
And if you happen to be passing through Southern VT, Merck Forest in Rupert will host their annual Maple Sugaring Celebration on Saturday & Sunday, March 19 & 20. All-day activities will include tours, games, horse-drawn sleigh rides, interpretive lessons in the tradition of sugaring, and a family-style pancake breakfast. www.merckforest.com
Dutton Berry Farm Stands in Newfane, Manchester and West Brattleboro also will be welcoming visitors to stop in and try their Vermont Maple Syrup tapped from their trees and made at their very own sugar shack. There’s also plenty of maple candy and maple fudge to sample too. For more info, call 802-365-4168.
Here’s to a great sugaring season for all!
For more information on Maple Weekend and for a complete list of participating farms, visit www.mapleweekend.com
–Cora Sugarman is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.
The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.
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