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Maple Yearnings

February 5, 2019

The Tour de Wings results will have to wait just a little bit longer. First we’ve got to push through the backlog of posts. Because before we went on the tour, I spent an evening at Riverside Maple Farms at January’s Official Yelp Event.

You may be saying to yourself, it isn’t maple season yet. Or is it?

If you’ve ever been on any tour or visited any maple operation, you know that the sap begins to flow when the daytime temperatures are above freezing, and the mercury dips below freezing at night. The simile used to describe the phenomenon is that the change in temperature causes expansion and contraction which functions like a pump.

Today in Albany the high is 52 degrees. The overnight low is 25 degrees. That sounds like sap running weather to me. But who has their trees tapped in the first week of February? Well, Riverside Maple Farms does.

I learned they do things differently. But a big part of what makes them special really sucks.

Vacuums. It’s all about the vacuums. Actually, Riverside Maple Farms uses all kinds of cool modern tools. But they have a vacuum powered maple pump system, which literally sucks more sap from the trees. There’s an intricate tubing system that’s set up, so when the sap begins to flow, they can flip a switch and start the collection process.

The sap then is pumped into the building where most of the water is removed through a reverse osmosis filter. That cuts down on the boiling time that the sap needs to spend in the evaporator to turn into syrup. And soon, the energy used at Riverside Maple Farms will be harnessed from the sun.

But there is another vacuum at the farm, which is my favorite of them all.

Here’s the thing. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Yes, I enjoy real maple syrup. It’s what I put on pancakes and waffles. The fake stuff need not apply. But in general, my tastes lean towards the savory. So if it’s a choice between pancakes or corned beef hash, I’m going with the hash.

Which is why it’s surprising that I now have a powerful yearning for maple candy.

Maple candy is a terrible word, because it is both horribly vague and fails to capture the magic of this very special treat. For starters, there are a few different types of maple candy. There are those hard and clear candies you have to suck. There is maple cotton candy, which I also happen to adore, but is made from a blend that includes cane sugar. Hot maple syrup poured on snow forms a taffy like candy too. Amazingly, I only just experienced this for the first time on the farm last week, and I regret all those years of simply pouring cold syrup on snow to make maple snow cones. Somehow I never quite figured out I was doing it wrong.

Then we have those precious little patties of crystalized maple syrup, which will crunch just a bit when you bit into them, and then melt in your mouth like an impossibly luscious maple custard. Custard isn’t quite the right word, but the important part is that eating these “maple candies” provides a mouth filling sense of deliciousness.

So I had one at the farm, and it was good.
Then I had two more at home, and I was hooked.
Which meant I had to return on Sunday to buy a box of twelve.

And those are almost gone.

These candies aren’t inexpensive. A box of twelve is $12. But maple syrup isn’t cheap, and this is like eating a concentrated version of the stuff, without any of the stickiness. Plus, it’s super portable.

The thing that makes the Riverside Maple Farms version of this treat so good? You guessed it. Vacuums. Really just one vacuum. The one in the kitchen which rapidly cools the heated syrup, helps to produce the impossibly creamy texture of this maple candy.

I want to call them maple pillows. Or maple meltaways. Or maple cremes. “Maple candy” feels far too simple. It doesn’t quite capture just how special they are. “Maple cream candy” gets a little closer, but even still is lacking.

Anyhow, I just needed to let you all know. Of course the other thing the Yelp event reminded me about was how much I love the team at Field Notes. And I finally got to meet a couple of the people from Wolf Hollow Brewing Company which is now connected to Riverside Maple Farms through a wooded trail.

While it may look like a long trip out from Albany based on the map, it’s a remarkably quick drive. Thank you highways. And if you go, you might even bump into our good friend Emily L. Just whatever you do, save a couple of those maple candies for the Fussies, okay?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    February 5, 2019 7:35 pm

    a maple snow cone sounds pretty good

  2. February 6, 2019 4:05 am

    A friend who worked in a farm store observed that only children and men normally buy those maple candies. I’m not sure why that is or if it’s still true, but I love them.

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