Maple Syrup Season in the ‘Dacks
The Adirondacks are dripping in pure maple syrup, and the tradition of sugar-making returns for another sweet spring. This amber-colored season draws locals and visitors alike to maple producers who proudly share their obsession. Tour the sugar bush where taps and metal buckets collect sap from trees. Enter steaming sugar houses where sap is boiled into distinct grades of syrup. Meet the people who make syrup, and candy, and peanut brittle, and sugar, and popcorn…or skip straight to the pancakes and sausages. Welcome to Thurman Maple Days, where life is naturally sweet.
Sugaring has been part of the Original Vacation for centuries. Native Americans and Europeans both made maple goodness dating back to the 1500s. While the exact origin of maple treats is fuzzy, the maple process has remained mostly the same. Fresh sap from trees is boiled in a kettle and refined through a process known as reverse osmosis. Water is separated from the sap, and voila, pure Adirondack maple syrup!
Maple Days has been embedded in the culture of Thurman for generations. Every year, several Thurman farms produce maple syrup and other maple treats. Each farm has a unique history and process, and they all open their shops and sugar bushes to spread the magic of maple season. Sugar houses are open to the public where they can learn the tap-to-table process. Even the non-maple farms get in on the action, turning the Town of Thurman into a complete springtime destination.
The Annual Pancake Breakfast
No maple syrup celebration would be complete without pancakes. A pancake breakfast is held every Saturday and Sunday morning during Maple Days, and is a can’t-miss highlight of the three-week-long event. Steaming pancakes are flipped all morning long, going from griddle to grumbling stomach until everybody is served. In true Thurman fashion, the pancakes are covered in pure Thurman maple syrup. And of course, no Adirondack breakfast is complete without some Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse products. Oscar’s maple-smoked breakfast sausage is fried up along with the pancakes, adding something savory to this sweet morning meal.
Traditional Jack-Wax Maple Sugar Party
The Traditional Jack-Wax Maple Sugar Party, to be held on April 1st at the Thurman Town Hall, will wrap up Maple Days. A Maple Days tradition since 1959, the Maple Sugar Party serves an all-you-can-eat-buffet while collecting donations for the American Cancer Society. On the menu is all things maple, including a specialty known as Jack Wax. Jack Wax is commonly referred to as “sugar on snow”, and most likely originated with the Native Americans. It is a delicious treat that consists of thick maple syrup being poured over shaved ice. As the maple freezes on the snow, it turns into a concoction similar to taffy. This community event is affordable to attend, so bring the entire family! And, there is more than just maple celebrations going on at the Maple Sugar Party. Local musicians will be on hand to provide lively entertainment. Now in its 7th decade, the Traditional Jack-Wax Maple Sugar Party is the finale to Thurman Maple Days.
Meet Your Maple Producers
Valley Road Maple Farm
Photo Credit: Kacey O’Brien
Hosts of the pancake breakfast, the Hill and Senecal families have been running the 30-acre Valley Road Maple Farm for several decades – and their experience shows in their maple products. After guests have had their fill of pancakes and Thurman maple syrup, they’re invited to take a walk back into the two sugar bushes and inspect the farm’s 3,400 vacuum-fed tree traps. Valley Road Maple Farm loves to show off their skills with presentations, both during and after Maple Days, including welcoming schools to the farm for education field trips. Their sugarhouse is top-notch and state-of-the-art, using a reverse osmosis technique to produce abundant amounts of maple syrup in a shorter amount of time. All of that sap allows them to create amazing maple-themed products, such as maple syrup, maple candy, maple roasted peanuts, maple peanut brittle, maple cotton candy, and other delectable maple treats. Valley Road Maple Farm has been recognized for its goods, including three New York State Fair wins for their maple candy. All of these products are available at the farm, as well as Oscar’s maple syrup, of which Valley Road is the exclusive maple syrup provider. You need to make sure you buy a jug before leaving Thurman.
Toad Hill Maple Farm
Photo Credit: Kacey O’Brien
Toad Hill Maple Farm is another stop on the Thurman Maple Days map. Toad Hill has been in the Galusha family for over 45 years. They manage an 853-acre swathe of Adirondack forest which amounts to over 3,000 maple trees in use. Toad Hill also opened a state-of-the-art timber frame sugar house in 2011, which is helping improve their reverse osmosis technique to remove water from the sap. If the system is running well, they can turn 1,000 gallons of sap into 25 gallons of syrup per hour. For Maple Days, they’ll demonstrate their energy-efficient maple process and offer hayrides through the sugar bush. At Maple Days, they also give tours of their maple kitchen, where Toad Hill’s magic maple goods are created. Sample maple treats and be sure to take home some maple syrup, maple cream, maple candy, and maple sugar.
Hidden Hollow Maple Farm
With over 40 years of syrup experience, Hidden Hollow Maple Farm knows their stuff. They’re a huge producer of Lake George Area syrup, tapping over 5,000 trees. They hold to the old ways of syrup production and use a wood-fired evaporator to boil the sap. They watch the sap temperatures manually, then hand-draw the syrup when it’s at the perfect temperature. According to Hidden Hollow Maple Farm’s website, “old traditions help us let nature be its most delicious.” The syrup is tasty, so we can’t say we disagree. Along with excellent maple syrup, which is sold in glass maple leaf-shaped bottles, they are masters at other maple products, such as maple candy and maple cream. They also sell some unique items such as maple jelly, maple mustard, and more. Hidden Hollow Maple farm is doing a lot right, and the proof is in the syrup that can be found throughout the Lake George Area and beyond.
Mud Street Maple
Photo Credit: Kacey O’Brien
Mud Street Maple is run by a maple-passionate family, and this 27-acre sugarbush on Mud Street has been in operation for about 10 years. They have gained notoriety for their wickedly delicious bourbon maple syrup, maple-glazed walnuts, raspberry maple cream, and several infused maple syrups. We suggest you check them out!
Candy Mountain Maple
Candy Mountain Maple is the new kid on the Thurman Maple Days block. Proprietors Mike and Ingrid Richter bring over 80 years of professional environmental experience to the maple game. They use sustainable and family-friendly sap collection techniques to ensure a healthy and successful sugar bush that will join the ranks of the other well-established stops along the tour in the years to come. Candy Mountains also encourages STEM students to visit and tour their “learning line” – the process of how sap becomes the maple syrup on your table. At Maple Days, Candy Mountain will be selling their maple syrup and pint n’ pancake mix packages. They are looking forward to meeting all the maple enthusiasts that make their way to Thurman for this springtime event.
Sharing in the Maple Mania
Martin’s Tree Farm and Sawmill
Martin’s Tree Farm and Sawmill gets in on the Maple Days action as well. They may not be a maple farm, but their business is still trees. The Martins are owner of certified tree farm and practice sustainable forestry. They welcome guests to inspect some cut maple trees that display markings of long gone taps, and have beautiful boards displaying maple grains which would look great as a bar or table top. Martin’s offers demos of blacksmithing, candle-making, and pyrography during Thurman Maple Days. They also host an artisan market featuring Lucyann’s Stained Glass Stepping Stones and Paper Bead Earrings, as well as soaps, carvings and wooden wares, pottery, and repurposed home décor. Martin’s is a great place to stop after you’ve had your fill of maple.
Nettle Meadow Farm & Sanctuary
While Thurman Maple Days is about all things maple, there are places to check out that are sweet in other ways. One of these places is Nettle Meadow Farm & Sanctuary. Nettle Meadow is a working cheese farm and animal sanctuary that happily takes in older or differently abled farm animals. The sanctuary’s large family includes over 100 unique animals such as goats, fowl, and horses. You never know what animals you’ll meet at the sanctuary, but the cheeses are always delicious. Nettle Meadow has an array of award-winning cheeses, such as their Kunik – a triple crème wheel of goat milk and cow cream. Depending on the weather, they will be holding cheese tastings and hourly farm tours, where you can meet baby goats and lambs. Make sure to stop in their shop before you leave, as they’ll be selling locally made products, and of course, their cheese!
Thurman Town Hall
To commemorate this event, a Thurman Maple Days pictorial postmark will be available at the Thurman Town Hall every Saturday during Maple Days. The Town Hall will also be the site of a craft fair, where local vendors are encouraged to set up shop.
Come Taste for Yourself
Maple season is short, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate. After three glorious March weekends, Maple Days is but a sweet memory. Spring always rescues the Adirondacks from a harsh winter, and the sap always runs. If you’re in Thurman on a sunny weekend this March during NYS Maple Weekends, stop by a maple farm. Sample the syrup and take a tour. This relic of the Original Vacation is still flowing strong.