Snow fleas jump. Maple sap turns into sweet and succulent syrup. Winter is ending. Spring begins. It’s time to celebrate — Maple Weekends are back!
Yes — last weekend (March 19 and 20) and next weekend (March 26 and 27), the region’s maple producers are open to visitors to visit the sugar bush. There are family activities. Many offer pancake breakfasts and activities for children.
You will be able to taste syrup, see how it is made, learn about maple products such as maple cream, maple sugar and maple candies. Some will offer you coffee and tea made with pure maple sap instead of water.
Syrup has many uses besides a topping for pancakes, waffles, French toast, or ice cream. Use it in cooking and baking to replace sugar. It’s wonderful in rice pudding and baked beans. When baking, use one and a half cups of syrup for every cup of sugar and cut the liquid in the recipe in half. Add a pinch of baking soda and lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Many products, such as barbecue sauce, mustard and salad dressings, can be made with maple instead of sugar. You can bake maple cookies, breads, muffins and cakes. There’s maple jelly and maple peanut butter.
For sweet treats, nuts from peanuts to almonds to walnuts can be coated in maple. There’s maple-coated popcorn and pretzels. Cotton candy, taffy, and fudge can also be made with maple.
In the mid-1990s, some members of the New York State Maple Producers Association opened their doors to the public for Maple Sunday. This was the beginning of the Maple Weekends, which have grown since then, both in terms of the number of participating maple producers and the many types of activities offered. COVID has brought a temporary pause in activities — and we’re happy to have them back!
Maple Weekends mark the start of retail sales for several family farms producing maple syrup. Some use age-old traditional methods; others have advanced equipment like tubes that carry the sap from the tree to the boiling tank. Most practice sustainable forestry, preserving habitat for birds and other wildlife.
With more than 253,000 gallons of syrup made by 1,500 maple syrup producers, New York State is the world’s fourth largest producer of maple products after Canada, Vermont and Maine, according to the New York Agricultural Statistics Service. In our region, syrup is the first agricultural crop of the year. About a quarter of the state’s producers reside in the six northern counties and produce about 35% of New York’s maple syrup. Lewis County, in the eastern foothills of the Adirondacks, produces the most, with 120 growers.
There are 70 commercial growers with over 1200 acres of maple trees in Essex and Franklin counties. The Tri-Lakes Sugarbush region includes Cornell’s Uihlein, Paul Smith, Whiteface Mountain, Mark Twain Sugarworks, Rivermede and South Meadow Farm. So come this weekend to see the sap boil, enjoy the sweet smell, taste and buy maple products.
Enjoy a Sweet Maple Weekend!
Maple glaze for meat
Ideal for ham, pork or chicken.
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons of wine vinegar
2 tablespoons spicy mustard
Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Brush over meat (such as pork chops or chicken pieces) and place in prepared baking dish. This can be done early in the day so the meat can marinate in the sauce. Reserve any remaining sauce.
The meat can be grilled or baked or cooked in a pan covered with oil. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
Optional caramelized onions and apples.
Peel and chop an onion. Place in a skillet with a few teaspoons of olive oil or bacon juice; sprinkle with salt; cook over low heat, covered, stirring every 5 minutes. Peel, core and dice an apple; incorporate after 10 minutes; cook another 10 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Once caramelized, stir in any remaining glaze and serve over the meat.
Maple Baked Apples
2 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider or apple cider vinegar, or a combination
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or almonds (I used a combination of walnuts and pecans)
1/2 cup raisins, optional
2 large or 4 small sweet apples
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.
In a small cast iron skillet or sturdy saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and cider; cook 2 minutes. Stir; add nuts and toss to coat. Cook for 2 minutes to lightly toast the nuts. (Option: you can also do it in the microwave; melt all the ingredients together, stir in the nuts).
Wash and core the apples.
Cut in half, quarters or thick slices. Peeling is optional.
Top the apples with the nut mixture. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the apples are tender.
Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Serve hot as a dessert, with yogurt or ice cream, or as is.
For 6 to 8 people.
— — —
Author of award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh, Fabulous Meals From Your Garden, CSA, or Farmer’s Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at [email protected] or on Facebook at Words Are My World.