It's maple syrup season, and I highly recommend a drive out to Kent's Sugar House [2529 Plank Rd., Berlin, NY] to taste the local product.
Kent's is Rensselaer County's lone participant in the New York State Maple Producers Association "Maple Weekend" festivities, which are happening this weekend and next (Mar. 21-22, Mar. 28-29, 2009).
(The folks at Kent's say if you drive by during the week and see by the clouds of steam that they're boiling syrup, you can always stop in anyway.)
Most of Kent's trees are far from the road, but the sugar house is easily accessible. They tapped a nearby tree to show the sap, which comes out in a fast drip and looks like water (tastes like water too - barely sweet at all).
Trees are at least 30 years old before they can be tapped. The dark scars on the face of this maple tree cross-section are old tap marks from many decades. (Click images to zoom in.)
It takes about 45 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. The wood-fired evaporator senses when the syrup is ready, and automatically fills buckets full of steaming syrup. The sugar house smells amazing.
The hot, fresh syrup was the best I'd ever tasted. We bought lots of Dark Amber syrup, and wish we'd bought more.
You can try these Maple Recipes, or learn about Replacing Table Sugar with Maple Sugar.
I plan to make lots of real Buttermilk Pancakes and Waffles- from scratch - it doesn't seem right to pour something this amazing on box-mix pancakes or frozen grocery waffles!