Signs of spring

Maple-y baked apples with yogurt (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Snow fleas jump. Maple sap boils into sweet, scrumptious syrup. Winter is ending. Spring is beginning. It’s time to celebrate — maple weekends are back!

Yes — both last weekend (March 19 and 20) and next weekend (March 26 and 27) area maple producers are open for visitors to tour the sugarbush. There are family-friendly activities. Many offer pancake breakfasts and children’s activities.

You can sample syrup, see how it is made, learn about maple products like maple cream, maple sugar and maple candy. 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 decrease the liquid in the recipe by half. Add a pinch more of baking soda and lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

Many products, like barbecue sauce, mustard and salad dressings can be made with maple in place of sugar. You can bake cookies, breads, muffins and cakes with maple. There is maple jelly and maple peanut butter.

For sweet treats, nuts from peanuts to almonds to walnuts can be coated with 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. That was the beginning of Maple Weekends, which have grown since — both in the number of maple producers participating and in the many types of activities offered. COVID brought a temporary break in the activities — and we’re glad to have them back!

Maple Weekends mark the beginning of retail sales for many family farms that produce maple syrup. Some use time-honored, traditional methods; others have state-of-the-art equipment like tubing that carries 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 one-fourth of the state’s producers reside in the six northern counties, and produce about 35% of New York maple syrup. Lewis County, in the eastern Adirondack foothills, generates the most, with 120 producers.

There are 70 commercial producers with more than 1200 acres of maple trees in Essex and Franklin counties. Tri-Lakes maple farms region include Cornell’s Uihlein, Paul Smith’s, Whiteface Mountain, Mark Twain Sugarworks, Rivermede and South Meadow Farm. So come on out this weekend to watch the sap boil, enjoy the sweet smell, sample and purchase maple products.

Enjoy a sweet maple weekend!

Maple Glaze for Meat

Great for ham, pork or chicken.


1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons spicy mustard


Blend sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Brush over meat (like 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 leftover sauce.

The meat can be grilled or baked in the oven or cooked in a skillet coated with oil. Use a meat thermometer to taste for doneness.

Optional caramelized onions and apples.

Peel and dice an onion. Place in skillet with a couple teaspoons of olive oil or bacon drippings; sprinkle with salt; cook on low, covered, stirring every 5 minutes. Peel, core and dice an apple; stir in after 10 minutes; cook for another 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. When nicely caramelized, stir in any leftover glaze, and serve over the meat.

Maple-y Baked Apples


2 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 – 4 Tablespoons apple cider or apple cider vinegar, or 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 oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper.

In 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 stir to coat. Cook 2 minutes to toast nuts slightly. (Option: you can also do this in a microwave; melt all ingredients together, stir in nuts).

Wash and core the apples.

Cut in half, or quarters, or thick slices. Peeling is optional.

Top apples with nut mixture. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until apples are soft.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm for dessert, with yogurt or ice cream, or just as is.

Serves 6 to 8.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ 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 yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.


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