Maple Open House weekend starts today, goes next week

Katie Buhaj of Little Falls watches her sons Aidan, center, and Brevin chow down on maple fritters at Frasier’s Sugar Shack in St. Johnsville Saturday during the statewide Maple Open House Weekend last year. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Over the next two weekends, visitors will be able to taste some of the sweetest maple sugar available.

Free tours of area sugarhouses will be held on Maple Open House Weekend, today and Sunday, and March 30 and 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

And according to Mary Jeanne Packer, marketing director of the Upper Hudson Maple Producers Association, the limestone-rich soil in the area gives maple syrup and candies a special sweetness.

She said the area’s maple syrup “is invariably tops” in annual contests at the New York State Fair. The state is second only to Vermont in the amount of syrup produced, Packer said.

But turnout and maple syrup production is weather dependent.

Barbara Kirk, restaurant manager of Peaceful Valley Maple Farms in Johnstown, said the farm began processing syrup in early February, but the weather turned cold and stayed cold. The farm is producing now because the best weather is cold nights and warm days. Every year until the maple trees bud, the farm produces 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of syrup, and sugarhouses are held to international standards for syrup weight and sugar content, she said.

For the next two weekends, the public gets to see how the process works. Visitors will be able to experience firsthand the sights, smells and sounds of maple syrup making. Most sugarhouses will offer samples and demonstrations. Many of the locations will be serving pancake breakfasts as well.

Packer said “New York is definitely known as a maple syrup-producing state.” At the 29 farms in the Upper Hudson region, some 75,000 people will visit during production season, she said.

“Every year we get more and more people” because the news is spread by word of mouth to friends, neighbors and family members, she said.

New York is tapping only 2 percent of its maple trees because of limitations in access to the trees and state restrictions, she said.

Participating area sugarhouses are as follows: Brower Road Sugar House, Gloversville, (518) 848-7685; Frasier’s Sugar Shack, St. Johnsville, (518) 568-7438; Mud Road Sugar House, Ephratah, (518) 744-0624; North Creek Sugar Shack, St. Johnsville, (518) 568-5683; and Peaceful Valley Maple Farms, Johnstown, (518) 762-8936; Nightingale’s Maple Farm, Amsterdam, (518) 882-9334; and McComb’s Oak Hill Farm, Speculator, (518) 548-6105.

For more information, call Mary Jeanne Packer at (518) 854-7386 or email [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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