Maple Sugaring in the Hudson Valley (New York)

Distilling reality from fantasy.

Pancakes are our dream breakfast

Towers of fluffy discs

Cascades of maple syrup.

While we have written many reviews about pancakes, we haven’t yet written a review of the ingredient that makes pancakes so special.  *Maple syrup*.  After Canada and Vermont, New York is one of the leading producers of maple syrup, and the tradition of maple sugaring was certainly, something that we were not going to miss out on while we were here!  The extraction of maple syrup from maple sap predates European settlement in North America.  There are many legends retelling how it was discovered.  One such legend tells how maple syrup was inadvertently discovered when the chieftain of a Native American tribe threw his tomahawk into a maple tree.  The next morning, his wife needed water for cooking, and seeing “water” leaking from where the tomahawk was wedged into the tree, collected it, and proceeded to boil some meat in it.  What remained after the water had been boiled off, was a sticky treacle.

For our first-ever maple sugaring experience, we visited Crown Maple Estate in upstate New York.  We had first encountered this brand at the former grand dame of delicatessens, Dean & Deluca.  Before our visit, we had imagined rows upon rows of maple trees, buckets filled with syrup wrapped around their lanky waists.  We could hardly wait to experience the joy of dipping our hands into said buckets, the same way that Winnie the Pooh dips his paws into honeypots.  What a jolt of shock we experienced instead!  Whatever it might have been in the past, today, there was nary a bucket in sight.  Instead, juicing maple syrup from maple trees involves laying out grids of long plastic tubing.  These tubes funnel a very watery, clear sap from the trees to giant metal tanks, and then, to evaporators.  The whole exercise of refining 40 gallons of sap into single gallon of syrup looks like industrial mass of gas pipelines, albeit above ground.

The end product of the purification journey is an ombre spectrum of browns, graduating from warm amber to deeper oak chocolate shades as the harvesting season progresses.  At Crown Maple Estate, we sampled an array of syrups lightly scented with cinnamon and vanilla, toasted with cloves and nutmeg, and even smoked and infused with bourbon for a more masculine edge.  In the end, even though the stark reality, and sterility, of maple syrup production vaporized our romanticized fantasies faster than the distillation process through which the sap endures, maple sugaring still remains one of our favourite dessert adventures, and one that helps punctuate the seemingly endless blur of blistering cold and frosty greys of late winter in New York.

Dessert adventure checklist

  1. ☑  Dessert destination: Crown Maple Estate, 47 McCourt Road, Dover Plains, NY 12522.
  2. ☑  Budget: $$.
  3. ☑  Sweet irresistibles: —
  4. ☑  Must-eat: We love Crown Maple’s Madagascar Vanilla or Cinnamon Infused maple syrup.
  5. ☑  The short and sweet story: Distilling reality from fantasy.


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