A Visit to the Sugar Shack
As the snow melts and the days get warmer the delicious sap starts flowing in NY maple trees. There are many local farmers who are tapping the trees to turn that sap into delicious NY Maple Syrup. A couple weekends a month they invite guests in to learn more about their craft.
We visited Corey's Sugar Shack in Highland, NY. They are a family-owned and operated sugar bush farm providing a fun and educational experience for the whole family.
The first stop on the tour is with John Corey to learn about the tools needed to extract the sap from the maple trees. You can ask questions about how to harvest sap from your trees and learn some tricks of the trade. Did you know that the sweetest syrup comes from Sugar Maples, but you can also tap black, silver and even red maples? Sap has a sugar content of anywhere between 2 and 5%. The tree is drilled with a 5/16" bit, tapped with a spiel and a tube takes the sap into a bucket. A tree will produce a quart to gallon of sap per day. Squirrels like maple syrup too, so if you are using bags to collect the sap you may find something beat you to it.
Turning the sap into syrup is a careful process of boiling off the water. There are many different contraptions that you can use to boil your syrup. Two key points are do not add too much cool syrup at once as you want to keep the liquid boiling. And, it can burn easily, so keep an eye on it. Their system has an auto drain-off at 219 degrees Fahrenheit.
Corey's uses wood to boil their syrup. Sap is added from a pipe near the top. Here you can see the water being boiled off. The steam is collected and water is drained to one side. When the correct temperature is reached the syrup is collected in a bucket on the other side.
Inside the gift shop you can sample the different grades of syrup as well as flavors.
Dark syrup has been boiled longer and has a richer flavor. There are bourbon and apple jack flavors that are aged in local whiskey barrels to give them a unique flavor. Other favorites available at the shack and at Hurds Family Farm are their BBQ Sauce and other maple seasonings.
It's hard to wait to get to the car to enjoy one of their sweet maple sugar candies! You can even make your own maple syrup candies at home. The kids have a whole new love for pure maple syrup on Meema's pancakes after watching it be made. Hurds Apples taste yummy dipped in the NY Maple Syrup too.
If you are planning to visit a sugar shack we recommend reading a book or two before your visit, especially with toddler aged children. The Sweetest Season by Elissa Kerr has a nice flowing text with pretty illustrations and good family values. If you did not make it out to see how the syrup was made, you can still come to the farm this fall and purchase some NY Maple Syrup to take home.