Celebrating the sweet stuff at Crown Maple

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media


Skip the sugar and be mindful of maple — a source of energy and nutrition that supports better health, your community, local agriculture and stimulates economic development in New York state — a sweet offer worth your investment.


Spring means flowing sap and maple syrup production — one of the few agricultural processes in the Northeast our indigenous ancestors discovered centuries ago and we sustainably practice today.


I loved the tour I took with my family and friends last weekend to learn about how Crown Maple syrup becomes a pancakes’ BFF and what makes it so special.


From bark to barrel — it started as a hobby, became worthy of a crown and grew to be “quite possibly the purest maple syrup on earth” the tag read on the bottle I bought — select quality Grade A “Medium Amber” Certified Organic Maple Syrup produced by Crown Maple at Madava Farms, its home in Dover Plains in Dutchess County.


“Seen on the Today Show, Used by Award-Winning Chefs, and Served in Top-Rated Restaurants”, maple sugar is a $275 million global business with concentration in Canada and Vermont and millions invested locally at this stunning estate with 2,500 acres and century-old maple trees — 40,000 of them tapped and ready to share sap for our eating pleasure this season.


If the Crown Maple state-of-the-art facility and grounds aren’t enough to compel you to visit — the modern breakthrough processing techniques and technology offer education to fill a day with conversation and chatter. Plan a tour, taste, learn and eat a pancake breakfast dreams are made of … and please, don’t forget to hike the forest and trails for breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley on any Saturday year round.


Founder Robb Turner said, “I became really excited about the idea that maple sugaring was a perfect way to protect the forest — not only on my property but throughout the area — and set out to create a business that would do just that. Producing maple syrup is amazing; it doesn’t require that you touch the forest or disturb the wildlife or their natural habitat.”


Of course with maple syrup comes a cooking opportunity — and Robb’s wife Lydia Turner embraced it, “I love to cook. It’s how I spoil the people in my life. My favorite times are spent in the kitchen with my girls, Maddie and Ava (thus the farm name Madava) experimenting and learning to cook with pure maple syrup for family and friends.”


Each season sets the stage for the weekly café menu prepared by Chef Jacob Griffin for the Farm Stand sourced from Madava Farm and local Hudson Valley farms that inspire homemade meals you can enjoy with your own family and friends when you stop by.


Thirty full-time employees make maple magic on the property with events, the farm, community tasting room, café and shop where Susan DeLaCruz greets you smiling!


With only 100 barrels of maple syrup made last year — Crown Maple sold out and luckily sap is flowing again.


On this bright and sunny Saturday in the country, sap was indeed flowing freely into sugarhouses because of warmer temperatures. But don’t confuse sapping season with tapping season. The former is when sap starts flowing and the latter starts the last week in December when a team of 12 puts taps into 200 to 300 sugar maple trees per day in an upward incision and connects the lines with plastic tubing that capture the sap and direct it to a collection house. The collection house feeds the sugar house and ends up in sap storage — a raw state that we think would be thick — but in fact flows like water and is a cloudy greenish color that smells of fresh grass and terroir with honeysuckle notes.


It takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and justifies the four 9,600 gallon tanks storing the sap — each one yielding 210 gallons of maple syrup once the process is complete.


Tyge Rugenstein shared his passion to maintain the integrity of the sap from tap to barrel to bottle as COO, explaining, “We focus on quality and the latest technology with eight of us in the woods working full time bringing the sap to the sugarhouse to process. It’s a beautiful place to work and agriculture at its best — we are at the mercy of Mother Nature deciding when she’s ready to let the trees maple sap flow.”


Color, age of sap, flavor and certification all play a role in how your syrup is graded — which has been debatable for 20 years. In addition to a host of products Crown Maple makes and sells on site and in retail shops like Adams Fairacre Farms, Whole Foods Markets and specialty stores like CM Gourmet Market in Westport CT (try the maple sugar in Cocoa Michelle coffee!!) maple syrup varieties are available in light, medium, dark and extra dark grades and are the favorites for all of your recipes.


I overheard a guest say, “It’s so good you can drink it …” referring to the dark amber maple syrup she was sipping.


And the process is incredibly technical. First you clean the sap — clarifying is key to a clear maple syrup and the special clarifying process used at Crown Maple is exclusive to their methodology and recipe — they call it DAF and it involves high pressure air bubbles, reverse osmosis (to save energy and remove water more quickly) a long series of filtration and an evaporator so sophisticated we discussed it like a work of art. Trust me, Crown Maple syrup at this farm is a treasure. Four years into sugaring — and after consultations with the best in the business at Cornell University and other maple “sugar shack farmers” of the some 10,000 in North America — Crown Maple excels as a producer, not a blender and yields a consistent product as a single origin maple producer who controls the entire process.


With hopes to have 400,000 taps of maple sap in the future and satellite properties in the Hudson Valley — these sweet folks at Crown Maple have their eye on the prize — maple making money.


And why wouldn’t they? It tastes great, it supports local economies, it teaches us where our food comes from and supports health and wellness connecting people to nature and marketplaces about where your food comes from while continuing the conversation about organic food and why what you eat makes a difference today and in the future — for the good of the environment and the health of our children.


Is there any sweeter choice than eating food that comes from people you know and places you love? It’s worth it. Eat local and crown yourself with good health. You can thank the Turner family later. FarmOn!


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