My wife and I recently took the Maple Syrup Tour in Thurman, NY, a few miles west of Warrensburg. ( http://www.persisgranger.com/ThurmanMapleDays.htm).
While there we learned all about how to make various maple related products, such as syrup, maple cream, candy, and maple sugar. We visited several sugar houses and watched as the sap was collected and boiled. We got to sample many products from each sugar house. The variety and excellence of each product was amazing. One sugar house did things the old fashioned way, gathering a lot of the syrup by hand in old fashioned buckets. A true New England art form. Other sugar houses are fully automated now, with miles of blue tubing running from tree to tree through the sugarbush, gathering the sap and piping it to the sugarhouse to be collected and boiled. Whether done the hard way or the automated way, the products were tasty and visually pleasing. We got to see some amazing equipment and to talk with the owners about the challenges they face each year. For sap to flow, the weather must have warm days followed by cool nights. Since this winter has been unseasonably warm, there have not been enough cool nights to really get the sap flowing, so the sugar houses will not be able to produce as much syrup this year as they did last year. Normally they average about 900 gallons of syrup a season, but this year, it might be as little as 600 gallons. A real financial hit for the businesses. Most of the owners have a full time job and do sugaring on the side, because it is very difficult to make a full time living with maple syrup. Despite their bleak financial circumstances, they were invariably cheerful and happy to talk to anyone who would listen about their passion. It quickly became our passion too when we sampled their products!
Afterward, we had a communal dinner in the Thurman Town Hall. It was a real slice of Americana, like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet catered by the good citizens of Thurman. Let me tell you, those folks know how to cook! There were so many different things to try. For dessert we got to sample Jack Wax. For the un-initiated, Jack Wax is made from maple syrup that has been warmed up and drizzled over fresh (clean) snow. The act of drizzling it on the snow turns it into this gummy, congealed consistency that sticks to everything! But it is absolutely delicious!