by Ian Barrett-Sargent

Making Maple + Meeting Your Local Farmers

Have you ever thought about what goes into making that delicious amber liquid we love to douse our pancakes with? Maple farmers in New York State produced 806,000 gallons of syrup in 2018. That is a 50% increase over the last 5 years, according to Governor Cuomo’s office. That’s a lot of sweet stuff going around! Here in Tioga County, we have two maple farms that participate in Maple Weekend, SweeTrees Farm in Berkshire (March 21 + 28) and Tholhill Farm in Candor (March 21). This is a chance to meet your local farmers, take a tour, and learn about maple syrup production. You also get to try tons of maple products like maple coffee, tea, cotton candy, and much more. For the full list of things to do throughout Maple Weekend check out our Events Calendar

Our Trip Out to Tholhill Farm in Candor

We recently had a tour of Tholhill Farm, in Candor, to learn more about local maple syrup production. We met up with Bobby and Kaylyn Nugent for a tour of the Sugar Shack and to try our hand at tapping a tree! They showed us the equipment they use to refine the maple syrup and the lines that come down the hill off the stand of maple trees, which is called a sugarbush. We also got the inside scoop on what they’ll be doing for Maple Weekend. Trust me, you’re going to want and stop in for a taste of what they’re cooking up!

Fun Fact: Maple syrup is graded based on its color ranging from amber to darker brown. Kaylyn explained how they’ve had 6 runs so far this season, and the color is based on the sugar content of the run. The Darker the syrup the stronger the flavor.

Tubing like these draws the sap from the taps on the trees while the vacuum pump assists gravity to keep the sap flowing to the sugar shack. Bobby explains that sometimes the squirrels can be a bit of a pain when they chew holes in the tubing stopping the flow of the sap.

The evaporator at Tholhill farm is powered by a wood fire stove that heats the sap in the pans. The idea is to boil the maple water down to its more concentrated sugary form. Lots of hard work and love goes into the process to keep things moving when the sap is running.

Roasted brussle sprouts and garlic with a maple mustard drizzle.

Cooking with Maple Syrup

What is the first thing you think about when you see maple syrup? I bet for most of you its pancakes or waffles, but you can do so much more with maple than that. It’s a good substitute for sugar in a lot of cases, and if you are buying the good stuff from your local farmer that’s even better. Think about it, maple water or sap is highly filtered and naturally infused with nutrients. What a good way to sweeten up some of your favorite dishes. Here are a few delicious ways to incorporate maple syrup into some simple dishes and cocktails.

Maple Whisky Cocktail by Eron at The Parkview in Owego:

1.5 OZ of Whiskey, 1 OZ Lemon Juice, .75 OZ Maple Syrup, and a pinch of Cinnamon.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with a Spicy Maple Glaze: Olive oil, maple syrup, and spices including equal parts ancho chile powder, chipotle powder, and smoked paprika.

Making Maple Weekend a Must!

Getting a tour of Tholhill farm last month was a very cool experience, and certainly just a taste of what they have in store for everyone coming up on Maple Weekend. Even though I am pretty familiar with the local maple farms in our area, it was nice to check out their operation and meet some new people. Remember, Maple Weekend is completely free for the public and a nice way to spend a day with friends or family exploring something new in Tioga County.

Pro Tip: If you want to hit both Farms in one day start at SweeTrees in Berkshire in the morning then hit Tholhill Farm in the afternoon. Depending on where you start your journey you can catch lunch along the way!