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For maple syrup farmers, the busiest time of year

For maple syrup farmers, the busiest time of year

‘When sap is running, we are running’
For maple syrup farmers, the busiest time of year
Riverside Maple Farms sisters Emily Gierke, retail manager, and owner Erica Welch show off some maple syrup products.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

GLENVILLE — On days above freezing and nights below, maple trees are pumping out that sticky sugary stuff one reaches for during breakfasttime, making spring the prime season for farmers to produce syrup.

“During maple season, when sap is running, we are running,” said Chris Welch, a maple syrup farmer at Riverside Maple Farms in Glenville, Schenectady County.

While many people are struggling to cope with cabin fever, maple syrup farmers are working long hours to assure the sap is transferred from the tree to a barrel within 12 hours.  The lengthy process is tedious, but, Welch said, sap is basically sugar water before turning into syrup, so it's crucial to ensure that bacteria doesn’t start to grow and contaminate the batch.

Riverside Maple Farms has between 3,000 to 4,000 taps. The syrup is collected from the maple trees through a tubing process, something that Helen Thomas, executive director of New York State Maple Association, said is popular among most farmers.

“We have a tubing system that runs from the woods and we collect the sap from tubes,” said Welch.

Each individual tree at Riverside Maple Farms produces a watery maple sap that’s only 2 percent sugar. The sap has a sweet flavor to it, but is nothing like maple syrup. Once the sap is collected, it undergoes a reverse-osmosis process that takes out the water from the sap, which then evaporates, allowing farmers to cook the syrup to its final density.

“The best syrup comes from being boiled quickly,” said Welch.

One might not typically think to put maple syrup on anything aside from pancakes, french toast, or other breakfast foods, but its use is certainly not limited to breakfast. Imagine the taste of a maple glazed hot dog or chicken wings served at a BBQ with friends and family, or coming inside from a hot spring day and hydrating with a fresh maple tea. Both Thomas and Welch said the possibilities for syrup are endless.

“Any food that’s orange, maple seems to go extremely well with,” said Thomas. “Carrots, sweet potatoes, anything you can think of that’s orange that you might want a glaze on is marvelous, but there’s nothing wrong with the traditional use either.”

Unlike refined sugars, maple syrup is pure. Nothing is being taken out of the syrup, making it the most nutritious sweetener one can use. Thomas said granulated sugar made from maple syrup is a better replacement for “that white stuff you’re using now.”

“It tastes good and you’ll use less,” she said.

At Riverside Maple Farms, customers can purchase syrup from the retail store in 100 milliliter containers to half gallons. The pint and half-pint are most popular.

During the last two weekends in March, maple syrup farms from all over the state invite the public to witness the ins and outs of syrup making and taste the final product.

Some participating locations in the Albany, Fulton, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington County include: Mountain Winds Farm, Mud Road Sugar House, Brower Road Sugar House, Frasiers Sugar Shack, Peaceful Valley Maple Farms, Kent’s Sugar House, Maple Valley Farm, Nightingale’s Maple Farm, Sugar Oak Farms, Riverside Maple Farms, Adirondack Gold Maple Farm, Toad Hill Maple Farm, Valley Road Maple Farm, Hidden Hollow Maple Farm Inc., Wild Hill Maple Inc., Mapleland Farms, Grottoli’s Maple, River Run Maple LLC, Highland Maple Farm, Battlehill Maple, Maple Acres, Rathbun’s Maple Sugar House, Sugar Mill Farm LLC, and Dry Brook Sugar House.  

Recipes with maple syrup


Spicy Maple Wings

Submitted to New York State Maple Association by Debbie Pilc. Serves 4-6 people.

2 pounds chicken wings
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp orange marmalade
2 tbsp chili sauce
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper
(optional) crushed red pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 375° F. Place wings on nonstick baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. In a mixing bowl whisk together Pure NY Maple Syrup, orange marmalade, chili sauce, and poultry seasoning. Add crushed red pepper now if desired for more heat in the sauce. Remove chicken from oven, change temperature to Broil. Remove the foil and pour sauce over the wings, turning to coat well. Place back into oven and broil for 7 minutes or until the wings are beginning to crisp. Be careful not to overcook or scorch.

Maple Glaze Crusted Salmon  

Submitted to NYS Maple Association by Cathy Parsons. Serves 4 people.

½ filet wild or farm raised salmon, skin removed, cleaned and pin bones removed, cut into 4 pieces
2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
½ cup maple granulated sugar or maple sugar, finely crushed
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
Maple cream, as needed
Oil, as needed

Directions: In a flat pan with edges, mix together bread crumbs, maple sugar, salt and pepper. Dredge the cleaned salmon on all sides with the breadcrumb mixture, drizzle generously with maple cream then bread again in the maple sugar breading mixture. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat until hot. Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the salmon on one side over medium to medium high heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Flip once and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a sheet tray. Finish baking in a 400°F oven for about 5 minutes or until the desired internal temperature is reached. Serve with additional maple cream on the plate if desired.

Rolled Maple Sugar Cookies

Submitted to NYS Maple Association by Dottie Merle. Yields 9 squares.

1 ¼ cup flour
⅓ cup sugar
½ cup soft butter or margarine
¾ cup Grade B maple syrup
⅔ cup white sugar
2 large eggs, well beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Cut together first three ingredients until they resemble coarse meal. Press into greased 9” pan and bake 15 minutes at 375°. Remove, and reduce oven temperature to 350°.Combine Pure NY Extra Dark, white sugar, eggs, melted butter, vanilla, flour, and salt and beat well. Stir in walnuts. Pour over crust and bake 40 – 45 minutes or until firm. Cool and cut into squares.

Mom's Hard Rock Maple Cookies

Submitted to The Maple News by Betty Ann Lockhart.

½ cup salted butter (1 stick, 8 tablespoons)
1 cup pure maple sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups walnuts (NOT CHOPPED)
1 cup of raisins (golden or dark – your choice)
1 32 ounce package pitted dates (preferably whole)

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350⁰. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a baking sheet. In a mixer, combine butter and pure maple sugar. Gradually add the beaten eggs. Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves and cinnamon, Add the walnuts, raisins and dates. Drop the batter by generous tablespoons full onto the cookie sheet. (You want these cookies to look nice and lumpy).  Bake for 12 minutes at 350⁰. Remove to a cooling rack.

Maple Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry

Submitted to The Maple News by Betty Ann Lockhart.

¾ cup maple syrup, preferably Dark with Robust Taste
½ cup fresh mushroom slices
½ cup broccoli “flowers”
½ cup julienned carrots
½ cup julienned celery
½ cup red, green, orange or yellow pepper strips
½ cups snow peas
½ cup water chestnuts (canned, drained) 
½ cup whole cashews, (optional)
1 pound small frozen “salad” shrimp thawed, or equivalent larger cleaned shrimp
Cooking oil to coat a large skillet or wok
Cooked rice
Chinese noodles (optional)

Directions: Coat the skillet with cooking oil. Sauté the veggies in the skillet until barely tender. Add the shrimp (we like to use the little Maine or Canadian shrimp when we can get them – bought without shells, clean and sweet). Add the maple syrup, stir to combine, and cook briefly until the shrimp are opaque. Serve over rice, and top with Chinese noodles.

Microwave Maple Red Cabbage

Submitted to The Maple News by Betty Ann Lockhart.

1 small red cabbage or ½ large one
1 medium sized apple
1/3 cup red wine, apple cider or maple vinegar (maple is best if you have it!)
3 tablespoons maple sugar
¼ cup Real Maple Syrup
1 tablespoon butter 

Directions: Use a large microwave safe bowl. Shred the red cabbage with a food processor, a cabbage board (I have my Great Grandmother’s!) or finely with a large, sharp knife. Chop the apple, and add. Cook covered in the microwave on high for 15 minutes. Add the maple sugar, syrup and butter, and stir to combine. Re-cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

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