Your Complete Guide to Maple Syrup (Plus Some Sweet Recipes to Try)

Where to get it, what to cook with it, and how it became a food staple.


photo courtesy of crown maple

Maple trees are a staple in New York; not only do they serve as a beautiful part of our landscape, but they are also the key ingredient in a growing, sustainable industry -— maple sugaring. Currently, New York is the second-largest producer of maple syrup in the United States, and last year maple farmers increased their production by 7.5%, smashing 2016’s record-breaking numbers by 53,000 gallons. In addition to producing pure maple syrup, the industry has ventured into maple products, with many farms creating items such as soaps and lotions, ice cream and cotton candy, maple cream, and more.

Many farms provide tours of their property and sugar shacks throughout the season, while some are only open to the public for Maple Weekends, which will occur March 17 & 18, and March 24 & 25. Start planning now, as there is much to see and do throughout the Valley this spring.

Click here for some sweet maple syrup recipes.

1) Ashokan Center’s Maple Fest

477 Beaverkill Road, Olivebridge


On Sunday, March 18, Ashokan Center’s annual Maple Fest will be held from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Featured events include maple syrup demos and tastings, guided tours of the sugar shack, colonial style crafts, live music, and guided hikes to the newly restored 1885 covered bridge and cathedral gorge. Pancakes with house-made maple syrup, and maple bacon, are available throughout the day.


2) Buck Hill Farm

185 Fuller Rd, Jefferson


The farm’s “famous breakfast” is a full country feast, including omelets from their own eggs, pork and bacon sausage from pigs they’ve raised, dairy from local producers, and, of course, pancakes, French toast, and maple granola served with their own maple syrup. They will provide tours during Maple Weekends.


3) Corey’s Sugar Shack

105 Hawley’s Corners Rd, Highland


Their newest flavor, garlic maple syrup, is flying off their shelves — it’s perfect for marinades and BBQ sauce. Their store, located in front of the sugar shack, is open every day after 5 p.m. during the season, or you can purchase products online. On Maple Weekends, stop by for tours where you can taste sap out of the trees, learn about the different ways to make maple syrup, and see their new reverse-osmosis machine.


4) Hudson Highlands Nature Museum

120 Muser Drive, Cornwall


Saturdays and Sundays, from February 24–March 18, Hudson Highlands Nature Museum offers two different tours — Maple Lane for little legs and Sugar Bush for the active type — where you can learn the whole maple process. Find out how to identify a maple tree with or without its leaves, taste sap directly from the trees, and see the different techniques used by Native Americans and pioneers up to modern-day farmers.


5) Fresh Air Fund Maple Celebration at Sharpe Reservation

436 Van Wyck Lake Rd, Fishkill


The 15th Annual Sugar Maple Celebration will be held on March 24, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.  Open to the entire community free of charge, this is a unique opportunity to visit the reservation and learn how to tap a tree, participate in tasting contests with local producers, view planetarium shows, enjoy maple-oriented refreshments, learn about maple in their sugar shack, and even pick up some information on becoming a volunteer host family for a Fresh Air child over the summer.


6) Frost Valley YMCA

2000 Frost Valley Rd, Claryville


During Maple Weekends, Frost Valley YMCA will host tours on how pure maple syrup is made and how to identify a sugar maple tree. You can tour the evaporator, and try a sample of fresh syrup. Reservations not required unless you plan to stay for the weekend.


7) Hummingbird Ranch with Hahn Farm

59 Cottage St, Salt Point


Visit in person or online for everything from traditional maple syrup, cream, and candies to the more unique hot sauce, coffee, and mustard. Look out for a store event during the spring to celebrate maple season.


The History of Maple Syrup

No one can say for certain exactly how maple syrup was discovered, as the legends vary. The most common one involves a Native American chief who threw his tomahawk into a sugar maple tree trunk. As the sun warmed the tree, sap began to run, and, believing it was water, the chief’s wife poured it into the meat she was cooking. The water boiled away to form a sugary glaze on the meat, leading Native Americans to begin boiling the sap each spring. Using hollowed logs to collect the sap, they would insert heated rocks to boil the sap into hard chunks of maple sugar.


Eventually, European settlers arrived, and with them came metal tools to drill holes in the trees, wooden buckets with covers to capture the sap, and large, iron kettles to suspend over fires for boiling the sap into syrup. In time, arches were built to contain the heat and suspend large pots, leading to the creation of sugarhouses, a concept that remains to this day.

During the 17th century, dairy farmers began to sell maple syrup to supplement their income, hanging buckets under the drilled holes to collect the sap which was then brought to the sugarhouse for processing. Today, extensive webs of plastic tubing have replaced metal buckets, and farms use everything from evaporators to reverse osmosis to produce the maple syrup that tops your pancakes on Saturday mornings.


8) Madava Farms/Crown Maple Syrup

47 McCourt Road, Dover Plains


Visit Madava Farms for tasting tours, where you learn their entire process that culminates in a four-stage maple tasting. Begin or end with lunch at The Farm Stand restaurant and tour their gift shop. The grounds are also available for hikes and picnics. During Maple Weekends, they will feature complimentary tastings, a maple-inspired lunch, Crown Maple cocktails, tree-tapping demonstrations, and a variety of local Hudson Valley vendors.


9) Maple Leaf Sugaring

93 Dupier Road, Ghent


Visit Maple Leaf Sugaring for tours of their 80-acre farm and facilities during Maple Weekends. For private tours during other times, call in advance.


10) Maple Hill Farms

107 C Crapser Rd, Cobleskill


During Maple Weekends stop by for tractor rides through the forest and a detailed explanation of the maple process from owner Victor Putnam, who is a fifth-generation maple producer. Learn about his patent-pending environmentally friendly stainless-steel taps — Maple Infinity Spiles — and view the boiling process. Their store is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., where you can purchase syrup, maple sugar, granulated sugar, maple cream, maple glazed nuts, and other maple foods. Maple Weekend tour hours are Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; tours on other weekends are available by appointment.


11) Marty’s Maple Products Farm

52 Bell Lane, West Shokan


Marty began making maple syrup with his grandfather and uncle in the early 1950s and began his own farm with just two maples and buckets in front of his home. During Maple Weekends he’ll provide tours, and sell various products such as maple popcorn and maple donuts, maple lollipops, and maple drops.  Tours on other weekends are available by appointment.


12) Soukup Farms

271 Halls Corners Road, Dover Plains


Originally a dairy farm, Soukup has been making and selling maple syrup since 1955; now, the syrup is being made and sold by a third generation. Tours are provided throughout Maple Weekends, where you can learn the process of tapping trees, boiling, and filtering. Check out their new infused coffee syrup, using Irving Farm Coffee Roasters’ dark roast. It’s good on yogurt but best over vanilla ice cream. Call ahead to book a tour on other weekends.


13) Taconic Outdoor Education Center at Fahnestock Memorial State Park

75 Mountain Laurel Lane, Cold Spring


On March 11, head to the Taconic Outdoor Education Center for the one day they are open to the public and receive a guided tour from John Stowell. There will be tree-tapping demonstrations; also, learn the correct procedures for making maple syrup.


14) Teatown Lake Reservation

1600 Spring Valley Rd, Ossining


Members and nonmembers can participate in their three sugaring Sundays on February 25, March 4, and March 11. Tours, brunch, and a sugaring program are available throughout the days. You can also rent a bucket for $45, which will get your name on a sap bucket on a tree, an 8-ounce bottle of syrup, and two tickets to the pancake brunch on March 17. Reserve early; this event sells out.


15) Tree Juice Maple Syrup

For Maple Weekends: 251 Rider Hollow Road, Arkville

For all other visits: 59 Rider Hollow Road


Join Tree Juice’s CSA and get your maple fix for the year at 10 percent off their retail price of half-gallons, full gallons, or even multiple gallons. During Maple Weekends you can tour their facilities and purchase hats, t-shirts, and their flavored syrups. Their personal favorite? Zesty lemon, which is great on blueberry pancakes and as a dip for fried chicken.


The History of Maple Syrup

What’s in a name? A lot of confusion, apparently, if you are maple syrup. Until recently, different labeling systems existed for syrups made in each state and Canada. For example, light-colored syrup from New York was labeled Grade A Light, while called Fancy in Vermont and recognized as No. 1 Extra Light in Canada.

In 2015, that all changed. Thanks to several years of work by the United States federal and state governments, Canadian governments, and representatives from the maple industry, a universal grading system was created to minimize confusion between labels and clarify what you can expect from each flavor. They also removed “Grade B,” which often left people wondering if it was an inferior product (it wasn’t). There are now four names:

• Grade A Golden Color/Delicate Taste

• Grade A Amber Color/Rich Taste

• Grade A Dark Color/Robust Taste

• Grade A Very Dark Color/Strong Taste

“All pure maple syrup comes from the same trees with the same process,” explains Tyge Rugenstein, the chief operating officer of Madava Farms, producers of Crown Maple syrup. “At the beginning of the harvest season, when temperatures are the coldest, the syrup will have a lighter color and more delicate flavor. As spring approaches and temperatures get warmer, the biochemistry of the sap changes, resulting in syrup that has a darker color and stronger flavor.”

While the new grading system has helped remove confusion among different products from various regions, those not familiar with maple syrup are still left scratching their heads, although, perhaps, a little less than before.

“I regularly have customers that don’t know what to choose,” says Sharon Buck-Collins, owner of Buck Hill Farm. “It will take a long time for them to discover their favorite. While I do get fewer questions about what the grades mean, many people don’t understand the difference. I explain that it’s the strength of the maple flavor – they all have the same sweetness, just a different character.”


16) White Oak Farm

680 Croton Lake Rd, Yorktown Heights


As the only commercial maple syrup producer in Westchester and the southernmost commercial maple syrup producer in New York, they receive thousands of visitors during Maple Weekends. Take a tour, participate in tastings and demonstrations, stroll through the woods, or enjoy a pancake breakfast nearby at Hilltop Hanover. Their store is open on Saturdays and Sundays year-round, and weekdays by appointment.


17) Finding Home Farms

140 Eatontown Road, Middletown


This is the inaugural year for Finding Home Farms’ new sugarhouse. Check their website for hours to tour the sugarhouse, shop in their store, and taste their organic maple syrup.


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