What is it about walking into a maple sugarhouse that kicks our senses into overdrive? Is it the luscious scent of maple syrup being made? The sizzle of the nearby griddle and all those yummy pancakes soon to be served? Or is it simply a hankering for a taste of something as sweet as springtime itself?
Whatever the reason, we fortunate upstaters are soon to be embraced by all things maple, as its March — the prime month for maple production — and its nearing time for New York’s Maple Weekends, an annual event that takes place the weekends of March 23-24 and 30-31. During the event, participating farms in our area and across New York state welcome visitors into their sugarhouses to experience firsthand how pure maple syrup is made. At many of the farms, we’ll also have the opportunity to taste and purchase maple products, devour some fluffy pancakes, and enjoy a host of other family-friendly activities.
While there are many farms to choose from, I’ve settled on a few that each offer something above and beyond their sugarhouse tours, maple samplings and scrumptious pancakes.
Kettle Ridge Farm: A hike through the sugar bush (the name for a stand of sugar maples) that includes stops at a chicken coop, a honeybee aviary and a shiitake mushroom log yard? Sounds good to me. You know what else sounds good? Their bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup. Oh, and their raw wildflower honey. Maybe I’ll get creative and drizzle both on my pancakes. Or maybe I’ll get really creative and adopt one of their maple trees. Look up the particulars online and when you do, be sure to check out all their other neat events throughout the year. (Kettle Ridge Farm, 515 Log Cabin Road, Victor, 585-683-7506, kettleridgefarm.com).
Packard Valley Farms: Especially geared to families, this farm provides plenty of fun-filled activities — pony rides, a petting zoo and a kids activity zone. While they don’t serve up pancakes on the premises, they do offer a free round-trip tractor or horse-drawn wagon ride (just a mile down the road) to The Log Cabin Restaurant for all-you-can-eat pancakes with Packard Valley Farms’ syrup. What sweet fun! (Packard Valley Farms, 438 Macedon Center Road, Macedon, 585-329-4216).
Wohlschlegels Naples Maple Farm: After my nephews inhale the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with sausage (nutrition first!), I plan to reward them with this farm’s sweetest treat: maple cotton candy. I am a good auntie, after all! Me? I’ll be busy sampling some of their unique maple products — Fire in the Bush maple barbecue and dipping sauce, cinnamon maple cream spread, and maple herbal tea. Naturally, we’ll stroll the scenic woods that overlook the valley before heading home. (Wohlschlegels Naples Maple Farm, 8064 Coates Road, Naples, 585-775-7770, fingerlakesbulkmaplesyrup.com).
Shadow Hill Maple Syrup: Late risers might want to head to Shadow Hill, one of the few farms that serves up pancakes until 4 p.m. This newly expanded farm also offers a short, informative video geared toward children, and plenty of walking trails with ducks, geese, and swans. Cooks should check out their maple cookbooks, nut fans would be remiss not to try their maple nuts and coffee lovers just might find a new amour: maple coffee. (Shadow Hill Maple Syrup, 7285 Lakeside Road, Ontario, 315-524-2190, shadowhillmaplesyrup.com).
Schoff’s Sugar Shack: Small in size but big at heart, Schoff’s gives families the opportunity to tap their own maple tree at 11 a.m. on two days: March 23 and 24. There’s no charge, but you do need to reserve a tree ahead of time by emailing cjschoff@aol.com or calling 585-924-3769. On Sunday, March 24 from 9 to 11 a.m., Schoff’s will host a pancake breakfast at the Thirsty Turtle in Victor, with all proceeds benefiting the Victor Football Boosters. (Schoff’s Sugar Shack, 1064 Willis Hill Road, Victor, 585-924-3769, schoffssugarshack.com).
Anne Palumbo writes this column for Messenger Post newspapers. Her email is avpalumbo@aol.com.