Maple Sugaring on Long Island
Nothing tops a pancake or waffle like that thick, amber-hued liquid, produced only here in the Northeast—maple syrup. Fortunately for Long Islanders, we don't need to travel to New Hampshire or Vermont to get a firsthand look at the process of converting maple sap into syrup and ultimately sugar. There are farms right here on the island offering demonstrations and providing samples (yummmm) this weekend.
Over the winter, the trees have stored sugar in their roots. When temperatures dip below freezing at night and rise above freezing by day, the trees get the signal that spring is near. In other words, it's time to grow some leaves and flowers! To do so, they must send their sugary sap up from their roots to their branches. Harvesting that sap is the first step in the process that ultimately brings the syrup to your table. If you've got an inquisitive child who is incessantly asking “Where does it come from?” you'll certainly want to foster that curiosity with a visit to Hoyt or Benner's Farm or spend the day at the Science Museum of Long Island.
Last year there was a lot of concern in the maple-sugaring industry due to the warm temps, but that certainly doesn't seem to be the case this year. I was told that when the temperature dips nice and low at night, and then creeps up above freezing during the day that makes for a perfect sugar run! So get your sweet tooth ready, folks; this year we have reason to be optimistic it's gonna be a great run!
Science Museum of Long Island
1526 North Plandome Road
Friday, February 22
Ages 3 and up
Join the folks at the museum as they prepare for their annual harvest of maple syrup. Try your hand at tapping trees, collecting sap, and boiling it down to a sweet and sticky treat. Come dressed for the weather and bring a lunch. Register by calling Rosemarie at 516-627-9400 x10.
56 Gnarled Hollow Rd
East Setauket, NY 11733
Saturday, February 23rd
Adults $7, children $6
Benner's Farm is offering a more informal look at the sugaring process. Members of the Benner family will be stationed around the farm where visitors can stop by to observe and discuss the various stages of the sugaring process, tapping trees and collecting sap. Visitors can then warm themselves by a roaring fire as they watch the sap being boiled down to sugar. Pancakes topped with the sweet stuff will be served and maple candy will be available for purchase. In addition, visitors will get a taste of what life is like on this 15-acre farm.
Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve
200 New Highway
Commack, NY 11725
Sunday, February 24
Sunday, March 3rd
Sunday, March 10th
$3/person or $8/family
Hoyt Farm is offering an in-depth look at the maple-sugaring process, from sap to sugar. Attendees will learn how Native Americans discovered that maple-tree sap could be converted to sugar and stored to sweeten their food all year long; how the colonists, after being taught by the Native Americans, adapted their own way of harvesting the sugar; and finally how the commercial process is done today. The 1½-hour class involves a mix of lecture, activity, and visual aids. Visitors will observe the sap being collected from the trees, then boiled down on an open fire. The finished product will be available for tasting. The maple-sugaring event provides a unique opportunity for the public to visit this beautiful 136-acre farm in Commack, which is typically only open to Smithtown Town residents. Visitors will also meet a variety of farm animals. With the exception of the pig, the animals can be fed, but you must bring some fresh veggies for them. In addition, visitors can explore an authentic Native American wigwam and a variety of hiking trails through old-growth oak forests, pastures, and apple orchards.
Programs are outdoors, so be sure to dress for the weather. Sturdy walking shoes are recommended for those wishing to enjoy the beautiful grounds at each site. The programs are within easy access of the parking lot as are the bathrooms and hand-washing stations.
Maple sugaring facts:
It takes 40 gallons of sap to boil down to 1 gallon of syrup.
Most of our maple syrup comes from sugar maples, but you can make syrup from red, black, and silver maples.
Syrups are graded according to their color:
Fancy Grade or Grade A light amber is the palest and has a delicate, sweet flavor
Grade A medium amber is a darker shade, like that of apple cider vinegar.
Grade A dark amber is the darkest and is the sweetest syrup with the strongest flavor
Grade b is thick, dark, and heavy and is used for baking and as an ingredient in barbecue sauce
Maple sugaring terms
Bucket hat: a cover for the bucket that prevents things fro falling into the sap
Evaporator: an apparatus used to remove water from the sap
Hydrometer: an instrument that floats in maple syrup used to measure its density. If it is too thin it will taste sour and too thick and sugar crystals will form.
Sap: a thin sweet liquid the tree uses for photosynthesis. Only a small amount of sap is used during the maple sugaring process so the tree is able to continue to grow despite being tapped
Sheeting: the moment when sap becomes syrup
Spout: a short nozzle tapped with a hammer into the hole of a live maple tree through which saps drips out
Sugar bush: an area where maple trees grow
Sugarhouse: a building near the sugar bush that holds the equipment needed to boil sap into maple syrup
Sugar on Snow: chewy taffy-like candy produced when warm maple syrup is poured on fresh, clean snow. It can be twirled with a fork like spaghetti.
Source: Maple Syrup Season, by Ann Purmell