New York state produces almost a fifth of the nation’s maple syrup, and much of that comes from the Catskills. The mountains are home to many sugarhouses, from large operations with state-of-the-art evaporators that use reverse osmosis to little shacks that still use the old-fashioned boiling method.
Maple syrup is available all year long, but the tapping season lasts for just a few weeks in March, when frosty nights and sunny days get the sap moving.
The best way to watch a sugarhouse in action is to visit one. The sights, sounds and smells of sap boiling in the sugarhouse mean that sweetness, like springtime, is just around the corner. Shake off the late-winter blahs and come celebrate Maple Weekend -- actually two weekends of open houses -- in the sugar shacks of the Catskills. Listed below are events that are within the Watershed Post's coverage area; a statewide list of all 160 locations can be found at mapleweekend.com.
Unless otherwise specified, the syrup-crafters listed below will be welcoming company on all four days of Maple Weekend: March 21 to 22, and March 28 to 29 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Many visits and tours are free; there may be additional charges for breakfasts, pony rides and other treats.
Come visit Jake and Ryan at Tree Juice Maple Syrup, an ingenious maple syrup CSA brought to us by the "cow-to-cone" gelato folks at Lazy Crazy Acres. They’re welcoming visitors on Rider Hollow Road in Arkville, on March 21, 22, 28 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Above: Jake Fairbairn of Tree Juice Maple Syrup pours fresh maple syrup out of his wood-fired evaporator in Arkville. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Above: The wood-fired evaporator at Tree Juice Maple Syrup needs constant tending. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Fleischmanns has a community tradition of sweetness with the annual Maple Festival. On March 21, the festival kicks off with a maple pancake breakfast beginning at 8 a.m. at the Fleischmanns Community Church. At 8:30 a.m., register for the Sap House 5K Run/Walk and catch the shuttle to the Vly Creek Maple Farm, where the run begins at 9 a.m. (Vly Creek will be hosting maple demonstrations all day.)
From 1 to 3:30 p.m., the area’s best maple chefs share their culinary creations at the festival's Maple Bake Off Café, while La Cabana Mexican Restaurant and the Ate.O.Ate Food Truck sell maple-themed lunches. At 2 p.m., a panel of judges award prizes to the best baked goods, and then they’ll be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Then, at 3:30 p.m., the year’s Maple Royalty is crowned.
Just down the pike in Margaretville, you can check out the small-scale family operations and maple-sugar-patty making at the Kenneth Burger Farm.
When brothers Matt and Micah Scobie lost their maple-sugar-hobbyist father a few years ago, neighbor Tom Kaufman helped them get organized as Brookside Maple, also in Delancey.The brothers will be welcoming guests around their wood-fired evaporator throughout Maple Weekend.
Above: Some Catskills sugaring operations use sophisticated equipment, like this reverse-osmosis machine, to cut down on boiling times and increase their production. Photo by Julia Reischel.
They could hardly have better mentoring. Kaufman is proprietor of the international and state-of-the-art Catskill Mountain Maple, also in Delancey, where they’re serving up a full breakfast for free in their heated showroom until 2 p.m. on all four Maple Weekend days. They invite you to tour, sample and make your own candy.
Come up to Franklin and learn about the fascinating-sounding process of reverse osmosis. The folks at North Franklin Maple Syrup will be boiling and canning up a storm. Besides the syrup, sugar, cream, and candy, they’ve got maple popcorn, maple cotton and fudge.
They’ve got 150 miles of tubing on five acres up at Roxbury Mountain Maple, so it’s a good thing they’ve got eight kids who go hands-on in the operation. How sweet is that? Come to Hobart, find out for yourself, and play with the goats; they’re open 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
At Shaver-Hill Maple Farm in Harpersfield, they’ll show you how they tap the trees and give you a horse-drawn tour of the sugarbush. David, Dennis and Dwayne Hill are continuing a family tradition that dates back to 1912.
On Saturday, March 21, come out to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Agroforestry Resource Center in Acra between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. for Maple Fest: Celebrating the Wonderful World of Maple Syrup. Taste-test the wares of the Greene County Maple Producers Association and learn all about the science of sweet syrup, then and now.
In Jefferson, Buck's Maple Barn invites you to grab a bucket and get the entire “tree-to-table” experience for yourself.
At Thompson’s Sugar Shack, also in Jefferson, Dan and Missy will welcome you and explain how the maple-syrup hobby they resurrected from childhood memories grew into the creation of nine different products over the course of the past ten years. Try out the results over pancakes. Or taste their fresh maple doughnuts, caramel corn, brittle and cheesecake.
In Cobleskill, Maple Hill Farm Enterprises will be celebrating the “first and sweetest harvest” with comprehensive tours of their major family operation, starting with tractor and wagon rides through the sugarbush. They’ve got a general store there that sells organic foods, and a neighbor farm is making organic pancakes to showcase their syrup.
Left: Steam rises from an evaporator. Photo by Julia Reischel.
At Stone House Farm in Sharon Springs, Tim and Patti Everett will be pouring it on the pancakes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; there are tempting free samples for dessert and wagon rides to the sugarbush if weather permits.
When Thomas Slater and his partner first started tapping maples twelve years ago on the family farm in Central Bridge, venturing out with headlamps in the dark, they asked each other what kind of person would do such an insane thing, and thus was born Two Saps Syrup. This year they’ve got a brand new rustic sugarhouse to show off and will be making fresh maple syrup and cream that you’re cordially invited to come and taste.
Nestled between the Rondout Reservoir and the Sundown Wild Forest in Grahamsville, the Catskill Mountain Sugar House is a large operation shepherded by the Gargliano family, who’ve been local for seven generations. Walter and Barbara are both attorneys, but still find sweet sanity in the sugarbush. Come see their new evaporator in action and find unique maple-themed gifts.
On Sunday, March 22, hikers and maple lovers are invited to tour Catskill Mountain Sugar House’s maple operation and then head out on a hike (or, if it snows, a snowshoe) through the farm’s mountaintop sugarbush. The hike is sponsored by trailkeeper.org and is led by its partners, Lisa Lyons of Morgan Outdoors and Erin Burch of Catskill Mountainkeeper. RSVP by calling Lisa at 845-439-5507 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Parksville, the latest of four generations of sugar tappers will be hard at work at Justus Asthalter Maple Syrup, Inc. Grandpa Dutch would be proud: his descendants have been named producers of the “#1 Maple Syrup” by the River Reporter three years running.
Frost Valley YMCA celebrates Maple Weekend at its gorgeous Claryville campus, with comprehensive education on the subject of tree-to-table goodies and ample samples. Try some maple soda. They’ll be giving tours every half hour throughout both weekends.
Platte Creek Maple Farm in Saugerties would love to have you over for some peace, love, and maple syrup during a visit and tour of their lovely creekside farm during either weekend.
Marty’s been making Marty’s Maple Syrup in West Shokan since his grandfather got him started at age 10. This year, he’s bought a popcorn machine and is working on the perfect maple popcorn with the enthusiastic assistance of his own grandchildren. Stop by for a taste and some maple-coated apple slices; Marty’s is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays both weekends.
An edited version of this article appears in the print version of the 2015 Catskills Food Guide, our annual publication covering food and farms in the Catskills. The Catskills Food Guide is distributed across the Catskills region and at select locations in the NYC metropolitan area. Find a copy near you here.