I recently learned that Pennsylvania hosts a Maple Weekend to celebrate the harvesting, cooking, and production of local maple. The weekend is focused on the Maple Producers in the Tioga and Potter counties of PA.
I had no idea such an event existed until I stumbled over a brochure announcing the up-coming 2021 event. This is why I enjoy traveling so much. There is so much to discover. I knew that PA had a few maple farms, but I had always thought those were private ventures… or intimate “farmer’s market” vendors. Similar to when you find a road-side apiary selling honey. These little treasures of are why road trips have such a joy for me, both the local products and the local knowledge. You can learn so much about a tiny part of your world.
Maple Weekend in PA
Not only was there a Maple weekend I had no idea about… but it was their 17th year as of 2021! How did I miss this fun?? I honestly couldn’t think of a sillier reason to drive five hours each way, but I was totally game. Obviously I was planning a road trip.
Potter-Tioga’s maple producers celebrate Maple Weekend in late March. This is (approximately) the final weeks that the maple farmers can collect maple sap, before the trees start turning to budding and spring growth, and the sap can no longer be collected for syrup purposes.
But, March? Ugh. I had doubts that the weather would cooperate – March is infamous for weather mood-swings, even stormy temper-tantrums. I made a note, marked my calendar, and waited.
I was very happy to see that the Maple Weekend was going to have GREAT weather; it was going to be warm and sunny. Luck was on my side, and that was all I needed! I was heading north to Pennsylvania Wilds, maple trees and pancakes on my mind.
What I learned
On this weekend I learned that Pennsylvania farmers have a hearty and rich history of making high quality maple syrup, and are proud members of a strong commercial industry in our state: Maple Producers Association. There are several farms participating in the weekend event, and although I didn’t manage to visit every farm, I did manage to visit several. At the end I’ll list all the goodies I purchased from each farm in case you wish to check out their farm, store, or on-line shop.
Each farm we visited had a slightly different method of harvesting, collecting, and cooking their maple sap. I learned so much about maple 🍁 harvesting during this weekend; including how they manage wildlife and their sugar bush tubing. I doubt I’ll be a maple harvester any time in my future, but I can better appreciate what goes into making maple syrup.
Did you know…
- The farmers call the collection of maple trees a “sugar bush?”
- PA is the southern-most state producing maple syrup?
- Some Vermont producers purchase PA’s “less than ideal” maple sap to add to their sap to make more product?
- It takes 42 gallons of maple sap (2% sugar) to make one gallon of maple syrup?
- Kids can somehow eat pancakes with syrup all day long and never get full? Did you know that??
- The sap collected is only collected during a limited time and only if weather conditions are right (freezing at night, up to 50s during the day)
- Maple sap is a thin, watery liquid (and a bit green!)
- Maple syrup from different farms or different regions will taste differently?
After attending this weekend’s events, I fear I have obtained a refined palette of maple syrup after all the fun sampling!
If you attend the Maple Weekend, you too may become a maple syrup connoisseur. I have to admit, that bourbon maple syrup was unlike anything I found anywhere else and is suddenly my new favorite kitchen accessory. And these farmers are making rather unique items using Maple syrup. I was 110% into this wild culinary experiment! Cheese? Peanut butter? Coffee? Yes… yes to all of it!
Every farm was cooking their maple sap, allowing guests the magical experience of walking into a barn and being surrounded by the sweet, warm aroma of cooking maple sugars. It was as if we entered a steamy bakery, but with the richer aroma that maple gives off when heated.
Each farm was eager to give tours and information about their methods of harvesting and cooking. Some farms run a vacuum tube system which gently guides the sap from the trees directly to their cooking containers. Others harvest into large silver containers stationed by the auger bush, and drive to these containers to collect and transport the maple sap back to the cooking sheds. Each farmer was both proud and eager to share their labors and efforts, to show their methods and measurements, and then to show and sell their maple products.
I was apparently eager to buy all the goodies.
Food and more food. Oh, my!
We spent Saturday visiting a few farms, including the Patterson Farm which is one of the largest producers in PA. Here we attended a very informative and display-laden tour in which they showed us how the family originally collected sap and how they collect it today. During this tour we learned that some of Patterson’s less-than-best sap is shipped up to Vermont where it is mixed with Vermont sap and blended to make maple syrup that is then exported nationally. Isn’t that an odd bit of trivia?
The farm was providing all guests with a free pancake, one breakfast sausage, and all the maple syrup you could use. The barn was also raffling a quilt, selling Girl Scout cookies, and offering coffee and hot tea. After spending way too much money at the store and loading my car up with maple products, and loading up my belly with pancakes and syrup, we drove to another farm and repeated the experience: Informative tour, display of process, sample of food stuffs, and then buying goodies to bring home for family and friends.
I. Ate. So. Much.
I also had so much fun! The farms each make special products with their maple syrup, and I couldn’t resist buying a little bit of everything to bring home. Each farm was just a lovely experience of friendly folk sharing what they love.
After a long day of carb binging, we enjoyed a relaxing evening watching the stars at Cherry Springs State Park. And then we did it all over again on Sunday!
Maple Weekend – Things to know
If you plan to visit this lovely region, here are some things you should know:
- You’ll be driving from farm to farm. The event is not centrally located in one location.
- You’ll be on a farm. Dress accordingly!
- The farms and the families are exceptionally welcoming and eager to share their love of maple harvesting with you. Enjoy the information and knowledge of the work and effort that goes into something so ubiquitous for breakfast
- Many farms are offering samples. Come hungry and with a sweet tooth. (Maple syrup in your coffee? Sure, why not!)
- Everyone is selling something; come prepared to shop! (Although most accepted credit cards, a few only operated in cash-only)
Items I splurged on:
I purchased a few jars of syrup from multiple farms as gifts for family and friends. But a few of these treasures came home directly to my kitchen.
- Patterson Maple farm: maple cotton candy (for kids), maple covered walnuts, maple dipping mustard, bourbon maple syrup, and classic maple syrup
- Sticky Bucket farm: Maple Bacon Cheddar (seriously, this is SOO good!), Maple Balsamic Vinegar, Maple Cream, Maple Coffee
- Brydonson farm: Maple Peanut Butter (this, too, is amazing), and Spicy Maple BBQ sauce
- Fitzgerald’s farm: Maple syrup, painted maple bucket lid
I hope you can enjoy this special experience, and the lovely people involved in this fun weekend. While you’re up in the Wilds, why not check out some of the other beautiful spots the region has to offer! There is the Kinzua Bridge Sky Walk, Cherry Springs state park dark skies, Wellsboro and Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, plus an amazing collection of trails and forests to explore.