Meadville Tribune

Entertainment

March 13, 2014

Local producers not sappy over late spring prior to annual Maple Taste and Tour

Maple syrup season is running a little behind schedule this year, but local producers refuse to get sappy over a late spring as they prepare for the 11th annual Maple Taste and Tour this weekend.

While they may not have the freezing nights and warm days necessary for consistent production, sugar houses big and small still expect to satisfy the discerning palate with a variety of syrup samples and maple-based treats in multiple counties, including Crawford, Erie, Venango and Warren.

Many locations, like Our Lil’ Sugar House in Saegertown, will also give facility tours and production demonstrations, making syrup right on the spot, according to Kendra Durfee, who operates the sugar house with her family.

“We feel it’s a good opportunity to educate the public about the production of pure Pennsylvania maple syrup,” she said. “The late spring has affected production, unfortunately, but we are producing and we plan to have sap to boil for the tour.”

Our Lil’ Sugar House is new to the 2014 tour but has appeared on several previous tours, seeing as many as 700 people in years past, according to Durfee.

“Quite often, it depends on the weather,” she said. “If we have a beautiful weekend, we usually get a larger crowd. Kids as well as older people enjoy coming and we look forward to seeing them.”

This year, the Durfees plan to hold a maple production reenactment to show how early settlers and colonists made syrup in large kettles on an open fire. They’ll also let interested visitors tap their own tree for sap in the woods and sell maple-related souvenirs, including hand-painted Christmas ornaments.

“Every sugar house has a little twist on how they do it,” said Bill Phillips, president of the Northwest PA Maple Association, event sponsor and organizer.

Not only do sugar houses vary in the grade of syrup and treats they provide, but they usually differ slightly in terms of their processes, with some running evaporators and others utilizing reverse osmosis machines, which remove water from sap to reduce the amount of boiling necessary.

Firth Maple Products in Spartansburg, also new to this year’s tour, is one location that operates modern sap-processing technology and is one of the state’s largest producers with approximately 25,000 taps, according to Phillips and the Maple Association.

Producers Troy and Lynn Firth are expected to offer maple butter, two grades of sample syrup and more during the tour.

“We’re all optimistic it’ll be a great tour,” Phillips said. “We’re looking forward to a nice turnout and we hope to sell a lot of syrup. Our producers are always anxious to talk to people.”

Maple tourists are encouraged to dress according to the weather and prepare for potential low temperatures and some moisture on the ground.

Other than that, the tour is a great way to “shake off the winter blues” and herald the upcoming spring in the sweetest possible way, according to Phillips.

“It’s a good time for people to get out and see what we do,” he said. “It’s a free taste and tour with all kinds of samples so come take a look and maybe learn something, too.”

You can go

The 11th annual Maple Taste and Tour is Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at a number of locations throughout Crawford, Erie, Venango and Warren counties. The Crawford County producers include Boyland Farms, 26308 Crossingville Road, Edinboro; How Sweet It Is, 19868 Greenleaf Drive, Saegertown; Sleepy Creek Honey & Maple Syrup, 22399 Cemetery Road, Venango; Howles Family Maple Products, 27828 Patterson Road, Guys Mills; and new this year are Firth Maple Products, 22418 Firth Road, Spartansburg; and Our Lil’ Sugar House, 16234 S. Mosiertown Road, Saegertown. More information and a list of all locations: Visit pamaple.org.

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