NYS Maple Syrup bottle on a shelf
Upstate New York

Springtime is for Pancakes at Maple Farms in Oswego County

Last updated on April 10, 2024.

As the snow starts to melt and the days grow longer, it’s prime maple season in New York. Maple farms in Oswego county and across the state celebrate with pancake breakfasts and maple syrup demonstrations. Some of the farms even invite visitors to put on their boots and get a little muddy while tromping through the maple forests. So check out these maple farms to get your sweet fix.

Inside Maple Weekend: How is Maple Syrup Made?

It all starts with sugar maple trees. Which New York is full of! The northeastern US has the perfect climate for them to grow. That’s why Vermont is also known for its maple syrup. (I also highly recommend eating your way through Burlington.)

Sugar maple trees are full of 98% water and 2% sugar. It’s that 2% that we use to make into that delicious syrup that tops your pancakes on Sunday morning. There’s just a lot of work that goes in along the journey from the tree to your table.

Harvesting Maple Sap

Maple sap harvesters insert one or two spiles into each tree to collect the sap. What’s a spile? Well, if you’ve seen The Hunger Games, that’s what Katniss tapped into the tree to get fresh drinking water. So it’s like that – but with sap.

For small operations or homegrown maple trees, sugarmakers hang buckets off of the spiles to collect the sap that comes out of the trees. That sap is then boiled in a large pot to turn into syrup.

But the larger farms produce syrup in mass quantity, so they need a more developed system. They have the spiles connected to an intricate maze of tubing. Farmers use gravity to help the sap move through the tubing, to the lowest elevation for collection into a tank.

Boiling Maple Sap into Syrup

Once the sap has been collected into barrels or holding tanks, it then needs to be boiled to remove water. The large farms first process the sap through a reverse osmosis machine. After that process, it then goes through the evaporator to finish off the process.

Do you know how much sap is needed to create a gallon of syrup? 40 gallons! And the average sugar maple produces between 10 and 20 gallons of sap per year.

In the evaporator, the sap travels slowly through channels as it heats up and caramelizes. The evaporator is heated over a hot flame, which is stoked an replenished with fresh wood as often as every 7 minutes. Thermometers on the inside of the evaporator check the temperature of the liquid, and dispense syrup from the chute when it reaches the required temp. That temperature is roughly 215 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, dependent on the elevation, temperature and air pressure. The goal? To reach 66.5% sugar content.

Filtering and Bottling the Syrup

After the syrup has reached the proper temperature, it’s time to filter out any sediment. As soon as the syrup is filtered, it’s ready for bottling.

Some sugarmakers will infuse other flavors into their syrups, like vanilla, cinnamon, or coffee. It’s also become popular to age the syrup in bourbon barrels from local distilleries. Not a bad addition to a boozy brunch!

You might notice that the color of your maple syrup ranges from light to dark. That’s because each tree, each season, and even each day affects the sap that is produced. There are four official grades of maple syrup: golden, amber, dark, and very dark. The darker the syrup, the stronger the maple taste.

Critz Farms Maple Samples 2019
Most maple farms take samples of every barrel they produce.

Maple Farms in Oswego County

Brawdy Family Maple Farm

This family-run farm in West Monroe specializes in pure maple syrup, selling a variety of bottle sizes each spring. Additionally, Brawdy Maple offers assistance to people looking to learn how to grow and tap their own maple trees. They sell sugaring equipment alongside the syrup in their farm store.

City Line Farms

Located along Fulton’s city limites, City Line Farms is a true family business. Together with their 6 children, the Maxams strive to build a community around their maple farm. In addition to various sizes and shapes of bottled maple syrup, their farm store also sells old-fashioned popcorn kernels, maple candy, and maple candles.

Maple Help Stock Farms

From maple syrup season in the spring to apple season in the fall, Maple Help Stock Farms excels in New York State shoulder-season agriculture. The farm is open daily in the spring from 9am until 5pm selling fresh maple syrup, maple sugar, and maple cream spreads. The farm is family owned, with the third generation of Hurlbuts currently running the operations.

PondView Lodge

Red Schoolhouse Maple

Owned by Kim and Kevin Enders, Red Schoolhouse Maple is located just 10 miles south of Lake Ontario in Palermo, NY. Their journey into sugaring started with the natural plants growing on their wooded property — leeks, mushrooms, and berries. Every March they host a community pancake breakfast to raise money for the local church.

In addition to pure maple syrup, Red Schoolhouse also makes a wide variety of products with maple. Mustard, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, BBQ rub, maple cream, and more.

Yardley Maple

Maple sugaring has run in the Yardley family for several years. Founder Joseph Yardley is the 3rd generation maple syrup maker in his family; he bought his first evaporator at the age of just 12 years old! A couple decades and a few kids later and the business is bigger and stronger than ever.

Yardley Maple boasts 3,328 maple trees across 135 acres. Each year they produce over 1,100 gallons of fresh maple syrup.

Every March the family opens up the farm to the community to come in and learn about the sugaring process, meet the family, and purchase syrup. They also sell syrup through their website, or you can call ahead to pick up from the farm.

Where to Buy Real Maple Syrup in Oswego County

Get Real Maple Syrup from your Local Farm or Farmers Market

Sure, you can get a bottle of ‘pancake syrup’ for a couple of bucks at your grocery store. It’s cheap, but it’s just flavored high-fructose corn syrup. Who wants that? In contrast, real maple syrup is quite a bit more expensive. And worth every. single. penny.

If you want to complain that real maple syrup is expensive, think about how much work goes into producing it. How many people are involved in the process. How many trees are required. By purchasing real maple syrup, you’re not just getting an all-natural and more delicious product. You’re also supporting local farmers. Real maple syrup for the win!

Check out these local farmers markets for ideas of where you can buy maple syrup in Central New York year-round.

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