More than 250,000 gallons of maple syrup are produced in New York state each year making it the second largest maple producer in the country (New York produces about 17 percent of all US maple syrup). Late winter, when daily temperatures reach the 40’s and nightly temperatures fall back below freezing, is the ideal time to tap maple trees. Every year in February more than 1,500 farmers in New York tap their maple trees and begin the process of collecting maple sap which is later gently boiled down into the sweet amber syrup that we put on waffles. Forty gallons of tree sap is reduced through the boiling process to produce one gallon of maple syrup. On its own, Maple tree sap has a two percent sugar content. When the boiling process is finished maple syrup will be about 66 percent sugar.
The maple syrup process begins with the tapping of the trees. Half inch holes are drilled about three inches deep into the maple trees and a spile (a spigot -like device) is tapped into the hole. A bucket is hung below the spile to collect the tree sap. Some farmers use plastic hoses that connect several trees to a central collection tank. After the the sap is collected, it is taken to the sugarhouse where the boiling process happens. Some sugarhouses are true to the historic sugaring process and employ large cast iron kettles to boil down the sap. Most contemporary sugarhouses use large rectangular steel tanks that are heated from underneath.
Today many maple syrup producers use reverse osmosis to remove 75-80 percent of the water from the sap before it is further boiled down to syrup. The advantages of reverse osmosis include the reduction of energy consumption and minimized exposure of the syrup to prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures.
When the maple tree sap is finally boiled down to maple syrup, it can be boiled down even further to make maple sugar, maple candy and maple taffy. More moderate levels of boiling are used to create products like maple cream, which is softer and less granular than maple sugar, and maple butter which has a creamy, slightly thick and spreadable consistency.
Syrup quality is graded according to its flavor profile and its color. Some common background flavors that occur include molasses, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and coffee. Occasionally woody, fruity and floral flavors are present. The individual flavor of maple syrup depends very much on how and where the maple trees are grown.
647 Bunker Hill Rd.
Salem, NY 12865
Crown Maple, LLC
47 McCourt Road
Dover Plains, NY12522
Maple Hill Farm
Victor Putnam and Caroline Foote
107 Crapser Road
Cobleskill, NY 12043-5913
Catskill Mountain Sugar House
8 Sugar House Lane
Grahamsville, NY 12740
Simple and delicious, maple shortbread can be whipped up and baked in minutes