Improving quality of value added maple confections

On Thursday, Sept. 18, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County will be offering a workshop on “Improving the Quality of Value Added Maple Products” in the second floor Conference Room at the Franklin County Courthouse, in Malone.

The workshop is made possible by the Cornell University Maple Program and will explore the fundamentals of making value-added maple confections, with a focus on managing invert sugar, finishing temperatures, and stirring temperatures, in order to produce top-quality granulated sugar, candy, cream, and coated nuts.

Invert sugar is common in maple syrup. And when making sugar or candy with maple syrup, success or failure pretty much comes down to the fact that different confections require different size sugar crystals. Granulated maple sugar, for instance, will be of the highest quality only when fairly large crystals, which can be easily seen and felt with the tongue, are produced. However, when making maple confections and candies, crystals often need to be prevented from forming. Success depends on fully understanding and appreciating the influence and control of invert sugar on crystallization and learning to manage the size of sugar crystals formation or to prevent crystals from forming.

This hands-on workshop will provide maple producers with an opportunity to learn how to make the highest quality value-added pure maple products and test those products against an established standard of quality. It is designed to enhance producer skills and product diversity.

Value-added agriculture is defined, in part, as a process of increasing the economic value and consumer appeal of an agricultural commodity by using new or unusual methods, in order to get more income from a crop. For maple syrup producers, this can mean processing pure maple syrup into granulated maple sugar, maple cream, maple candy, or any of a wide variety of appealing maple products, some of which will be discussed, during the course of this workshop.

Transforming any raw agricultural product through processing will add value. And increasing the percentage of a crop sold as processed value-added products will increase producer income (gross and net). In fact, New York State Extension Forester Peter Smallidge, a senior Extension associate and director of Cornell’s Arnot Research Forest, in Van Etten, believes that maple syrup producers can increase their incomes by 10 to 30 percent in just two to three years, by adding value-added maple confections to their product line. And, according to Cornell University Maple Program Director and New York State Maple Specialist, Steve Childs, who will be the instructor for the Sept. 18 workshop, converting maple syrup into confections can increase producer income four to five-fold over time. Extension Associate Michael Farrell, Director of the Uihlein Forest; Cornell’s Sugar Maple Research & Extension Field Station, in Lake Placid says, “No doubt about it, the market is there.”

Pure maple sugar is delicious straight out of the container, dissolved in your favorite hot beverage, or as a topping for ice cream, cereal, or baked goods. And when used in baking, you will typically need only half of the sugar that the recipe calls for.

If you really want to kick things up a notch or two, try mixing granulated maple sugar with cinnamon and sprinkling the mixture on hot buttered toast, muffins, English muffins, biscuits, bagels, pancakes, pies, popcorn, fruit, winter squash you name it. Or, if you prefer, you can spread some delectable maple cream on top of any of those. Complete the treat with just a dash or two of cinnamon (to taste) and indulge yourself!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York state held its position as the second in the nation, only to Vermont, in production of maple syrup, in 2014. Total production in the state was 546,000 gallons (from 2.2 million taps); the third best year for New York maple production in the past 20 years. Nonetheless, New York, like all maple syrup producing states with the exception of Pennsylvania, showed a decrease in production from 2013.

Locally, maple producers endured unusually consistent cold temperatures during the months of February and March, which resulted in a prolonged and significant lack of sap flow. As a result, almost all of the region’s producers still employing older syrup gathering technologies (sap buckets and / or gravity tubing systems), suffered. For quite a few, the persistent cold weather caused tap holes to close and sap to stop running. For some, it was the worst season in years. Producers using the most up-to-date vacuum tubing system technologies, however, were able to keep their tap holes operational, and produce excellent maple syrup throughout the entire season. On average, the season lasted 29 days, compared with 37 days in 2013.

Nationwide, 2014 maple syrup production totaled 3.17 million gallons, with colder than normal temperatures contributing to an overall shorter season of sap flow than in 2013. The total value of United States production in 2013 was $132 million.