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Maple syrup season has arrived

March 11, 2009
By Richard Gast, Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension

This is the time of year when most of us, having endured the arduousness of a long, cold winter, look ahead with enthusiasm and anticipation to the coming of spring. We've already set the clocks

ahead and the calendar says it'll be here in just a few weeks, but experience tells me that, although we may be encouraged by a few warm, spring-like days, winter will never be altogether ready to relinquish its hold on the Earth in March.

Still, I, for one, am looking ahead with enthusiasm and anticipation to the coming of spring. As the days grow longer, I find it quite satisfying to see ducks foraging in a thawing river or returning geese flying across glacial blue skies with just a hint of clouds.

And there is welcome warmth in the radiant glow of the sun as it climbs higher into the sky with each new day, assuring us that we will soon be heralding the return of robins and bluebirds, as well.

Take a walk in the woods and don't be surprised if you find snow

fleas dancing at the base of a large pine tree. You will most likely see squirrels, or at least the tracks of squirrels. You may even come upon the tracks of a bear, recently awakened from hibernation. Or get a whiff of the odiferous and unmistakable perfume of a newly awakened and recently frightened skunk.

As we approach the first day of spring, we are entering the time of

year that many refer to as mud season, although I would rather think of it as maple season - maple syrup season, that is. I try to look

beyond the gritty, slushy, soggy, squishy moosh that lies underfoot

to the gentle mist that rises from the snow in the fields and to the buckets on the aging sugar maples that line the North Country roadsides. Yes, the nights are frosty, but the days are getting warmer. Perfect weather for making maple syrup.

Tapping maple trees and boiling sap is an agricultural practice that

has been a part of life in North America since before the European

settlers arrived. In fact, the pioneers had no knowledge of maple sugar until the aboriginal people, who readily shared their understanding, their experience and their techniques for making maple sugar, taught the colonists to set up sugar camps in the natural forest stands of sugar maples during the weeks of sap flow. In return, the settlers showed the Native Americans how to tap trees by drilling holes with iron bits, instead of slashing the trunks with axes or tomahawks, and how to make spiles (taps) from softwood or reeds.

Today, homeowners tap and set buckets on yard, roasdside and street trees. Farmers and landowners tap trees in pastures and forests.

Large-production and small-farm sugaring operations are able to produce hundreds of gallons of quality maple syrup of exceptional quality and flavor, using the latest equipment, machinery and tools.

Employing the most advanced technologies available for the production of pure maple syrup, commercial producers use gravity flow and airtight vacuum systems for sap collection. If maple syrup producers

could count on ideal weather conditions, vacuum systems would be

unnecessary. But, as we all know, the weather seldom cooperates.

Tubing enables larger scale producers to collect greater amounts of

fresh sap in the most efficient and hygienic way possible. The collected sap can be pumped through machines that use a reverse osmosis machine to filter out up to 3/4 of the water before boiling even begins. This technology saves fuel and time without taking anything

away from the finished product. Steam evaporators are then used to

ensure even boiling temperatures throughout the evaporation process.

I have good news for those who have never visited a working sugarbush or seen maple syrup being made, but are curious and would like to.

Many state Maple Producers Association member producers are opening their sugar houses to the public during maple weekend, which is being celebrated in northern New York this year on March 28th and 29th. I can't think of a better springtime family outing. Taste the unmatched sweet flavor of fresh New York maple syrup while you're there, and I guarantee that you will want to take home a 1/2 pint, pint, quart, half gallon or gallon. Many of our producers also make and sell mouthwatering, pure maple candy, scrumptious, pure maple cream and delightful, pure granulated maple sugar. You can locate participating producers in your county online at or by contacting your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Franklin County would also like to invite you to celebrate Maple weekend and the tradition of

making maple syrup by joining us for a 4-H fundraiser breakfast of

hearty pancakes served hot off the griddle and topped with farm fresh, creamy butter and pure, rich, delicious, locally produced maple syrup! Add scrambled locally produced eggs, Glazier's breakfast

sausage, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk and Stewart's orange juice,

and you've got a mouth-watering breakfast that can't be beat. At a

price that's even better! Only $6 for adults and only $5 for seniors and children ages 6 through 15. Youngsters age 5 and under

eat for free. So, bring your appetite and the whole family to the Burke Township Volunteer Fire Station on county Route 23 (Burke County Road) in Burke from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday, March 29.

Proceeds from the breakfast will help support 4-H Camp Overlook in Mountain View and the more than thirty 4-H clubs across Franklin County. So, not only will you enjoy a great breakfast, you'll be supporting a community of children learning leadership and citizenship skills through the many wonderful and exciting 4-H programs made available to them through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County wishes to acknowledge the generosity of area producers and businesses supporting this year's Maple Weekend Pancake Breakfast 4-H fundraiser.

For more information about the breakfast, call Cornell Cooperative

Extension of Franklin County at 518-483-7403.

To find out more about Maple Weekend events or where to buy locally produced maple products in your area, please contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office in your county.



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