Maple sugaring weekends

A sap-run is the sweet good-by of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and frost.~
John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886

Maple sugaring bucket

In upstate New York, March is typically the month when the sap from the sugar maples is collected and turned into maple syrup. My husband and I attended one of the many weekend festivals where the sap is collected and delivered to the evaporator.  At this point, for every 40 gallons of sap, 1 gallon of maple syrup will be produced.

Below is the evaporator where the sap is poured.  Wood is added through the door on the lower front, hourly,  and the temperature rises to 3,000 degees F.

Main boiler

Next the boiled down sap is transferred to this machine.  It is here where the sugar content of the syrup is measured.   A hydrometer is used to assist in reaching the ideal sugar content of the syrup (66-67%).  If the sugar content is too low, the syrup will mold, if it is too high the syrup will crystallize.

Secondary boiler

Our visit to Maple Hill Farm in Cobleskill, NY was very interesting. We weren’t able to see the sap flowing from the micro spiles because the temperature was 27 degrees. The sap flows when the temperature is above freezing.  However, we learned a lot about their low impact harvesting and their belief that “If we don’t treat the trees, our harvest, with respect and view them as a sustainable, renewable part of our operation, then we don’t have an operation at all.”

Tree spile

When we arrived at the farm, maple leaf candy was being made and packaged. The smell was divine.


Maple candy


For more information about their products visit the Maple Hill Farm’s website.

Grades of Maple Syrup:

Wikipedia states that “In the United States, maple syrup is divided into two major grades: Grade A and Grade B. Grade A is further divided into three subgrades: Light Amber (sometimes known as Fancy), Medium Amber, and Dark Amber.

Extra Light and Grade A typically have a milder flavor than Grade B, which is very dark, with a rich maple flavor.] The dark grades of syrup are used primarily for cooking and baking, although some specialty dark syrups are produced for table use. The classification of maple syrup in the US depends ultimately on its translucence.  US Grade a Light Amber has to be more than 75 percent translucent, US Grade a Medium Amber has to be 60.5 to 74.9 percent translucent, US Grade a Dark Amber has to be 44.0 to 60.4 percent translucent and US Grade B is any product less than 44.0 percent translucent.”

Another thing we learned during out visit is that maple sugar flavor is affected by the soil, the amount of rain water during the growing season and the surrounding trees in the forest.  It is like a fine wine where no two varieties taste the same.

You will find many delicious recipes containing maple syrup on their website .

Dark amber is my personal favorite because of its deep maple flavor. It also adds more flavor to baked items.  This is what I drizzled over the Pecan Waffles.






Patricia Rio
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