New York Maple Syrup

6 Mar


New York Maple Syrup is a family tradition

More than 250,000 gallons of maple syrup are produced in New York state each year making it the second largest maple producer in the country (New York produces about 17 percent of all US maple syrup).  Late winter, when daily temperatures reach the 40’s and nightly temperatures fall back below freezing, is the ideal time to tap maple trees. Every year in February more than 1,500 farmers in New York tap their maple trees and begin the process of collecting maple sap which is later gently boiled down into the sweet amber syrup that we put on waffles. Forty gallons of tree sap is reduced through the boiling process to produce one gallon of maple syrup. On its own, Maple tree sap has a two percent sugar content. When the boiling process is finished maple syrup will be about 66 percent sugar.

Maple1The maple syrup process begins with the tapping of the trees. Half inch holes are drilled about three inches deep into the maple trees and a spile (a spigot -like device) is tapped into the hole. A bucket is hung below the spile to collect the tree sap. Some farmers use plastic hoses that connect several trees to a central collection tank. After the the sap is collected, it is taken to the sugarhouse where the boiling process happens. Some sugarhouses are true to the historic sugaring process and employ large cast iron kettles to boil down the sap. Most contemporary sugarhouses use large rectangular steel tanks that are heated from underneath.

Today many maple syrup producers use reverse osmosis to remove 75-80 percent of the water from the sap before it is further boiled down to syrup. The advantages of reverse osmosis include the reduction of energy consumption and minimized exposure of the syrup to prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures.

When the maple tree sap is finally boiled down to maple syrup, it can be boiled down even further to make maple sugar, maple candy and maple taffy. More moderate levels of boiling are used to create products like maple cream, which is softer and less granular than maple sugar, and maple butter which has a creamy, slightly thick and spreadable consistency.

Syrup quality is graded according to its flavor profile and its color. Some common background flavors that occur include molasses, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and coffee. Occasionally woody, fruity and floral flavors are present. The individual flavor of maple syrup depends very much on how and where the maple trees are grown.

New York Grades

  • A Light Amber – the lightest color, mild and delicate flavor.
  • A Medium Amber – slightly darker than A with a fuller flavor.
  • A Dark Amber – The darkest of the three grades. Also has the strongest flavor.
  • Extra dark (cooking) – darker than the grade A flavors also known as US Grade B.

Storage of Maple Syrup

  • Store unopened maple syrup in a cool dark place.
  • Once opened, maple syrup should be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Maple syrup can be frozen to preserve quality

Maple Syrup Facts

  • In most recipes that call for sugar, maple syrup can be substituted for all or part of the sugar. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons for each cup of syrup.
  • Tapping maple trees does not damage the trees and only about 10 percent of the sap is collected from the trees each season.
  • A sugar maple tree is typically about 30 years in age and about 10 inches in diameter before it is tapped for syrup production.
  • Depending on its size, maple trees can be tapped in multiple places. Each tap yeilds about 10 gallons of sap.

Farms producing maple syrup

Mapleland Farms
David Campbell
647 Bunker Hill Rd.
Salem, NY 12865

Sheldon Farms
Patricia and Albert C. Sheldon
4363 State Route 22
Salem, NY 12865
Fax: 518-854-9416

Crown Maple, LLC
Nathan Wooden
47 McCourt Road
Dover Plains, NY12522
(845) 877-0640

Maple Hill Farm
Victor Putnam and Caroline Foote
107 Crapser Road
Cobleskill, NY 12043-5913

Catskill Mountain Sugar House
8 Sugar House Lane
Grahamsville, NY 12740
(845) 985-7815

Maple events

Learn more about maple farms and maple festivals near you

Maple Weekend

Maple Shortbread recipe

  • 8 ounces butter
  • 4 ounces maple sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • Dash vanilla extract


  1. In a small mixer, mix the ingredients until the dough is pliable and can be rolled to form shapes.
  2. Roll small balls between the palms and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Gently flatten the balls with the palm of the hand. bake in a 300-325 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until the edges just begin to turn brown.

Po’Boys Are Getting Poorer

4 Mar


Po’Boys Are Getting Poorer

By Irena Chalmers

When the New Orleans streetcar drivers went on strike in 1929, the unemployed workers showed up at a restaurant’s back door. Greeted with the cry,

they were given a hunk of crusty bread stuffed with “debris.” This consisted of trimmings of roast beef and gravy, Creole sausage or any other scraps of meat or fried oysters and shrimp from the Gulf.The times are not changing — much. As we plunge into another real or feared depression we are fast becoming a mighty global heap of po’ folks.

Pendulums swing, but never go back entirely to the way we were. There’ll always be luxury in the midst of plenty. French Laundry workers are dishing up dinners for dapper dudes at a staggering $300, per. This is a huge leap. When Joe Baum opened The Four Seasons in 1958, it was one of the most expensive palaces of gastronomy in Manhattan. On the menu were: Meadow Veal Cutlet with Morels, $5.75, Two Thrush en Brochette, $7.50, Beefsteak Tomato, Carved at the Table, $1.25 (and served with a steak knife,) Baby Pheasant in Golden Sauce, $6.25, Twin Tournedos with Woodland Mushrooms, $7.00, The Youngest Carrots in Butter, $1.25, Nasturtium Leaves .95 cents. At that time the average price of a car was $2,200, gasoline was thirty cents a gallon, and the average annual income was $5,565, with minimum wage set at one dollar an hour. Today the fingerling potatoes cost as much as the roasted chicken.

Recently Navy wives posted this recipe in its entirety on their web site:

  • 2 pkgs Ramen Noodles
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 small can tuna

You’d think we’d be drowning our sorrows in spirited drink. Not so. The restaurant consulting company Technomatic, reports, the awful news that some restaurant goers are skipping emphatic drinks entirely and sales of grown up beverages have plummeted. Yikes. Could it be that we are skidding towards temperance?Some have an even worse time than the rest of us. $2.52 a day is the total allowance to cover three meals a day in the Federal penitentiary. Today 2,258,983 prisoners are held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails.

So here’s a way to deal with our problems. To save gas, let’s ‘free” the offenders (fitted with GPS-monitored anklets.) so they can grow vegetables and plant fruit trees along our highways. All our food will thus be produced locally.

Estimates vary but some suggest there are close to 90,000 students currently enrolled in culinary schools — maybe even more. I’ve found jobs for all of them. In community kitchens, they can cook all the food farmed by felons.

As fewer people can afford to go to the gym, they can, instead, get on their bikes and pedal the food by foot — or pick up passengers and deliver them by rickshaw to local eateries where they will dine convivially at communal tables. All wine and beer will be produced locally. We will be encouraged to drink red wine because we all know it is good for us. The most athletic will jog from bar to bar.

Then we can convert aging buildings into vertical farms. “Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world’s urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.” (You can read all about it at Hydrogen-producing algae will power these, buildings as well as clean fuel for all methods of transportation. (This technology also exists right now.)

We may have to make a few more dietary adjustments…d’you remember the craze for keeping pot-bellied pigs as pets? I’ll bet hardly any of the little darlings ended up on the dinner plate. It would make far more sense, particularly for those living in small apartments, to keep a couple of cute chickens as egg-producing pets. We could count on Martha Stewart to create a whole new empire, producing the kind of exotic breeds we’d be thrilled to show off to our friends.

The bad news, (all the foregoing has been quite good news,) is that we’re going to have to give up those monster steaks and downscale from red meat, to white. PETA is urging us to give up our truly terrible habit of eating animals. Instead we’ll produce protein from stem cells. Of course there’ll be an awful fuss about this idea so we’ll have to introduce the idea in animated cartoon form on Super Bowl Sunday. I suggest we name the new stuff Hypp—O (Have Your Pure Protein — Organically.) The logo will be a frolicking hippo fashioned in the likeness of the Metropolitan Museum of Art cutie.Corn is becoming a big issue in these hard times. We’ve made the eminently foolish decision to convert it into inefficient bio-fuel, thus creating a shortage. It looks as if we’re going to have to rethink this basic foodstuff. Scarcity will enhance its appeal, but if we used the methodology that gave us red, orange, yellow, purple and black peppers, we can surely color all the golden corn green. Green is what we’re into now. Big time.

Speaking of big, we are frowning on big people especially large people like Henry VIII. We’re disapproving even kings with multiple wives (and children) so we need to keep history in mind as we reorder our priorities. It is an indisputable fact that if most of the poor can no longer afford to shop or drive to the beach, or go to fancy restaurants. They’ll have to stay at home and stare at all those flat screen TV’s they bought in the good old days. But, and this is a big But, we know from past experience when blackouts and other catastrophic world events keep the public off the streets, this results in a heap of begetting. Here’s the silver lining though: this behavioral shift could point the way out of our current economic woes. Little babies are incredibly demanding. They need stuff: diapers, sun hats, crayons, piano lessons, little league uniforms, schools, toys, cell phones and tons of other things. There’s nothing like a new baby to get consumers dashing into the stores and spending without ceasing.

As you see, we just need to look at the future with a telescope instead of a microscope. Long term, we’ve got to change our policies. This, of course means changing our current form of government. I propose we establish a new jury system. Each new problem will be solved by picking twelve jurors, randomly, just as we do for each new court case. The judges will be chosen democratically too. We’ll qualify them first by requiring them to dance with a star and then have an American Idol-type democratic vote.(Just let me know if you have any more problems you’d like me to solve.)

Irena Chalmers is a professor at the Culinary Institute of America and is the author of Food Jobs:150 Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers. Publication Date September 2008

FarmieMarket, Sarah Gordon

4 Mar


FarmieMarket, Sarah Gordon

Sarah Avery Gordon is the founder of FarmieMarket, the Capital Region’s online farmers’ market. In 2009, she began marketing her family’s grass-fed beef on the internet using more traditional marketing venues and was surprised by the positive increase in sales that she and her family experienced.

In 2010 Sarah organized the Heldeberg Market, helping several of her farming friends from the Heldeberg Hilltowns market their goods through a central website hosting her first online farmers’ market. Her goal was to increase profits for small farms that had limited marketing resources and skills.

Heldeberg Market catalogs fresh weekly inventories from small farms so that Albany County customers can go online, shop, check out with their credit card and receive home delivery of their farm fresh goods. In 2011, Sarah increased the scale of her operation again, launching two more online farmers’ markets under the central brand, FarmieMarket. Turning Point Market began serving Saratoga County in July 2011, and simultaneously Uncle Sam’s Farmer Stand started serving Rensselaer County; Heldeberg Market was also expanded to serve Schenectady County.

Customers all over the Capital Region can visit, click on their location, and shop for local produce, meats, eggs and more from the farms that are most local to them. Currently, Sarah is coordinating marketing activities for twenty small farms throughout the Capital Region and making deliveries to customers’ doors three days a week in four counties.

FarmieMarket, Sarah Gordon (TEDx Albany video)

Fruited Rye Bread from Hawthorne Valley Farm

4 Mar


Fruited Rye Bread from Hawthorne Valley Farm

A food review by Daniel B.

What is more basic to human sustenance and nutrition than bread? Yet if one scans the bread aisle of any major supermarket, the loaves on the shelves are filled with high fructose corn syrup, refined grains, dough softeners, and a host of other ingredients that make it more science project than wholesome dietary staple.

The certified organic bakery at Hawthorne Valley Farm on the other hand, takes a few organic ingredients, forms them into a dense and satisfying loaf, and sells them at their farm store in Ghent.

They make their Fruited Rye on Mondays and Wednesdays and a loaf of the stuff will set you back $5.50. It’s delicious. But you are going to need a knife.


This is one dense bread. Seriously. A half-inch slice of supermarket sandwich bread is about 40 grams. A similarly thick slice of the Fruited Rye weighs in at 80 grams, and it’s smaller to boot.

But that’s because it is packed with good things: Whole rye four, rye berries, prunes, dates, hazelnuts, raisins, water, sea salt, and sourdough starter. That’s it. Everything but the water, salt and starter is labeled as organic.

The observant will notice that there isn’t any refined flour used in this loaf either.

Hawthorne Valley’s fruited rye bread demands to be toasted. Sure you could simply spread it with a little cream cheese. But with the addition of a bit of heat, the oils in the hazelnuts begin to sizzle and the nutmeat starts to brown. This process not only amplifies the flavor of the nuts, but also warms and softens the sizable pieces of dried fruit.

A pat of butter, a sprinkle of coarse salt, and you have yourself an incredible breakfast or a substantial midday snack.

Alternatively, you could slice this bread thin, coat it with some oil, and crisp it in the oven to make a remarkable crostini that would pair marvelously with a local goat cheese and a drizzle of honey.

Sandwiches may be a bit trickier. With its dense crumb, sour rye profile, and sticky fruit, it is not an obvious pairing for everyday lunches. Although I can imagine it pairing well with a curried chicken and apple salad.

$5.50 is not a paltry sum to spend on a loaf of bread. But this is no mere bread. It’s a meal unto itself. And if you looking for the staff of life, you need go no further than the bakery at Hawthorne Valley Farms.

The farm is located at 327 County Route 21C, Ghent, NY 12075

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.

Local Ocean

3 Mar

Local Ocean in Hudson is a salt water fish farm with zero discharge

A former 40,000 square foot distribution warehouse in Hudson is now home to Local Ocean, a fin-fish aquaculture system that will soon provide Northeast residents with a local supply of fresh salt water fish. Local Ocean is actively expanding square footage with two large additions directly behind the current facility.

Based in Columbia County, New York Local Ocean will supply New York City, Boston and several other Northeaast metropolitan areas with a high-quality product void of any pollutants found in wild caught fish. The facility and distribution protocols ensure “Day Boat” or “Top of the Catch” freshness.

Six varieties of fish are raised and harvested at the Greenport facility.

ROYAL DORADE (Sparus aurata)
Popularly Known in Spain as “Dorada”, as “Dorade” in France, “Orata” in Italy and in other international markets as “Sea Bream”, Royal Dorade is a very popular fish originally from the Mediterranean Sea. Royal Dorade are now being raised in Local Ocean’s Greenport NY facility.

SUMMER FLOUNDER (Paralichthys dentatus)
Often considered to be the most important flounder along the Atlantic coast. Summer Flounder are now being raised in Local Ocean’s Greenport NY facility.

AMBERJACK (Seriola Family)
Amberjacks are members of the “Seriola” family and are powerful world-wide swimmers found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Amberjack is common in waters around California and Mexico. The Amberjack has a nice white color to its flesh and a buttery texture as a result of its high contents of omega 3 fatty acids. Currently, Local Ocean is researching three sub-species for commercial production to begin in the first half of 2012. These are:
“Local Ocean” California Yellowtail (Seriola lalandi)
“Local Ocean” Amberjack (Seriola dumerili)
“Local Ocean” Almaco Jack (Seriola rivoliana)

WHITE SEA BASS (Atractoscion nobilis)
White Sea Bass is a species within the Croaker family and is located in waters from Juneau Alaska to Baja California. The skin is silver, and the meat is white, larger fish are often filleted into steaks. A delicious fish, it is rarely enjoyed outside of California. White Sea Bass are now being raised in Local Ocean’s Greenport NY facility.

BLACK SEA BASS (Centropristis striata)
Black Sea Bass is considered to be one of the finest fish in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Black Sea Bass is mild with a firm texture, but tender at the same time. This species is also highly prized for sushi by the Japanese and for steaming whole in the Chinese cuisine.

EUROPEAN SEA BASS (Dicentrarchus labrax)
This is a popular Mediterranean Sea fish known in America by its Italian name “Bronzino” and its French name “Loup de Mer”. These fish have white tender meat with a soft salty flavor and play an important role in the Spanish, French, Greek and North-African cuisines. Bronzino will come into production at our Greenport NY facility in the first half of 2011.

First fish farm in New York with commercial recirculating marine fin-fish aquaculture system.

The future of Local Ocean promises a large, local and sustainably focused fish supply on a mind boggling scale. Over the past two years Local Ocean has standardized an aquaculture system at the 40,000 square foot location in Hudson that makes possible a large scale fresh and salt water commercial fish farm that is the first of its kind. Once established there are plans to strategically implement other locations throughout North America and the Western Hemisphere.

The patented sustainable aquaculture system of Local Ocean is based on a unique fish-farming system that is highly efficient in respect to water and energy use. Energy conservation at Local Ocean comes from a fully-recycled water supply and a passive solar design that provides light and helps minimize heating requirements for the water.

The water is purified by what is known as a “living machine” which employs the use of natural “living” bacteria. The result is a continually purified recirculating system run entirely by two electric pumps with no pollution from environmental discharge and very little need for water replacement. In fact the only loss of water due to evaporation amounts to a mere one percent over time.

The output capacity of Local Ocean’s system is much higher than that of comparable systems (100kg of fish per metric ton of water, compared to 10kg in existing aquaculture systems). With close proximity to large consumer markets like New York City and Albany, Local Ocean will provide a constant, year-round supply of fresh fish without expensive transportation costs.

While fish is typically considered a healthy food option, various studies have shown that many ocean fish contain toxins like lead and mercury. Such contaminants can be eliminated by Local Ocean’s closed system of circulation. From a health stand-point, the advantages of Local Ocean’s aquaculture system will mean a product that is close to organic, even though there are currently no USDA organic certification standards for fish.

Grow the Good Life

1 Mar


Grow the Good Life

Michele Owens is a renowned writer and gardener who lives in Saratoga Springs. She is one of the founding partners of the gardening blog Garden Rant and has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Garden Design, and Organic Gardening. Here is an excerpt from her latest book Grow the Good Life

Reprinted from Grow the Good Life by Michele Owens. Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Owens. By permission of Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098



If You Haven’t Grown It, You Haven’t Tasted It

One of the best reasons to garden is the fact that homegrown fruits and vegetables just taste so transcendentally wonderful.

So incredible that they can turn anybody into a magnificent cook. Even if you are merely a happy amateur in the kitchen, as I am, you may find yourself becoming grandiose as the summer wears on. By mid-September, when harvest season is at its peak, I often mistake myself for Alice Waters, the chef who revolutionized American cooking in the 1970s by emphasizing the fresh and the local at her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.

Alas, when January rolls around and the only homegrown food I have left is a last parsnip in the cellar, I’m once again an enthusiastic but fairly ordinary cook. It’s the ingredients, stupid.

Homegrown food tastes better than supermarket conventional produce, better than supermarket organic. It’s better even than farmers’ market produce, excellent as that usually is, and we’ll talk about why in a minute. The truth is, if you haven’t grown a vegetable, you may never have really tasted it. Tomatoes and other fruits, with their complex acid/sweet flavors and dramatic transformations on ripening, are classic examples of things supermarkets simply cannot do well. However, even humble staples that taste just fine from the supermarket are an absolute revelation from the garden.

I’m talking about such ignorable items as curly parsley, escarole, potatoes, onions, or dried beans for a chili–perfectly serviceable when purchased from the Price Chopper, but another thing entirely from the garden. It seems as if every year, another unassuming vegetable suddenly turns into a star in my garden and opens up a new frontier in my life as a cook and eater.

Last year’s revelation was a green named mache, very popular in France, that I’ve planted a few times and ignored. It forms low-growing little rosettes, irritatingly tiny, too small to be worth the bother of cutting and washing, mainly because I never found the flavor particularly interesting. But it has been discreetly seeding itself in my garden in a bed of ever-bearing strawberries, and I haven’t been weeding it out.

About a year ago, however, I took notice because as soon as the snow retreated in late March–long before any gardener in my part of the world even thinks about seeding salad greens–there the mache was, all perky and inviting. Then I popped a plant into my mouth. Allowed to germinate and grow on its own schedule, the leaves were so tender and melting and the flavor so powerful, it was like eating a strong and expensive French perfume, something on the order of Chanel Coco. Amazing.

Let’s talk about why food harvested fresh from the garden, still warm from the sun or wet from the rain, offers the greatest possible interest for palate and spirit. It has to do with the nature of plants, of us, and of the food industry in all its desperate attempts to feign naturalness while undercutting nature at every turn.

The important thing to understand about plants is that because they can’t run for their lives or do a mating dance, they manufacture chemicals of diabolical subtlety and effectiveness to achieve their goals. They produce chemicals to attract–for example, the chemicals that create the luscious flavor and glorious color of ripe fruit, all designed to draw seed-dispersing animals. On the other hand, some of the chemicals produced by plants are designed to repel hungry herbivores that range from bacteria to groundhogs. Some plants are so subtle that when attacked, they produce a chemical designed to attract the predator of the insect that is eating them.

These chemicals give plants their flavor. One of the theories for why organic foods taste better than the conventionally grown is because organic plants actually face some threats and are forced to mount some tasty defenses, rather than living in a stupid utopia created by pesticides that keeps their flesh bland. Because we adult humans are thrill-seekers, some of the repellent chemicals are part of the enjoyment.

In fact, I sometimes wonder if the difference between my 7-year-old’s palate and mine is that her more sensitive palate responds to plants’ attempts to seduce–and I appreciate the bite or burn of their attempts to repel. “It’s spicy!” she says in an accusatory tone almost every night as dinner is served. Spicy is an all-purpose term that covers far more than hot peppers–raw garlic, horseradish, ginger, and arugula all fit her definition of spicy.

Our perception of flavor is incredibly subtle, and taste is only part of it. Almost all of our senses are involved. The feel of food in our mouths is significant. Appearance, temperature, and memory also contribute. Smell especially is essential to our idea of flavor, which is why it’s difficult to appreciate good food with a bad cold. Brain imaging has demonstrated that our perception of flavor is more than the sum of its parts, too. More areas of our brain are activated by the combination of taste and smell that determines flavor than by smell alone plus taste alone.

Taste is, if anything, the blunter part of the system. Taste receptor cells are each tuned to one of five different sensations: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory. In contrast, there are an estimated 350 different kinds of odor receptor cells in the human nose. Each one detects a very specific and limited number of substances. And because individual odors are multifaceted combinations that light up different combinations of receptors, we are able to recognize more than 10,000 different odors.

When it comes to flavor, the apparatus for fussiness is definitely in place!

Buy Grow the Good Life

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe

28 Feb


Local in New Lebanon

“Blueberry Hill Market Cafe is a place where people can be on their own clock.. whether they’re running in to grab something quick or they’re there to spend a few hours…” – owner Melanie Hunt

Part local market and part bakery cafe, Blueberry Hill Market Cafe is one of the newest best kept secrets in New Lebanon.  Owner Melanie Hunt bakes breads muffins, scones and cookies from scratch, and offers breakfast and lunch time favorites like local blueberry pancakes, seasonal vegetable quiche and frittata, chicken salad, pulled pork, Kinderhook Farm grass fed beef burgers, watermelon lemonade, and composed salads with local greens.

The market features Ronnybrook milk, local cheese, Kinderhook Farm grass fed beef, Liquid Assets locally roasted fair-trade organic coffee, breads from Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Tierra Farm natural foods, Lebanon Springs’ soaps, local maple syrup, honey and produce from the farm at the Abode of the Message.  Blueberry Hill Market Cafe is also home to Magdalena’s tamales, known and loved at farmers markets throughout the Hudson Valley.

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe

515 Route 20, New Lebanon, NY

Photography by Jane Feldman