Marty’s Maple Products
52 Belle Lane West Shokan, NY 12494
Maple Weekend participant
MARTY GIULIANO (MIDDLE) WITH SUGARING TEAM, BROTHER MICHAEL (L) AND FRIEND/COUSIN KEVIN TYLER (R)
“It’s a family tradition,” said Marty Giuliano of making maple syrup.
Meeting Marty was truly a delight. His 62 years of sugaring stories could fill up the pages of this magazine. His grandparents, Martin and Anna Eckert, tapped their first ‘dooryard’ trees in 1957. Marty remembers backyard boiling with his grandparents and his Uncle Bud Eckert every Spring well into his teens.
On March 15, 1969, smack in the middle of sugaring season, Marty got married. His new father-in-law, Tomas Penning, noted blue stone sculptor from High Woods, gave him 100 buckets and a flat pan as a wedding present. Marty departed for his honeymoon, and left sap collection up to his father Dino Giuliano, a city boy and owner of Shokan’s Sunoco gas station. He remembers the gathered sap was stored in a galvanized garbage can until he had time for a boil. To his dismay, the galvanized container was far from leak-proof, and all the stored sap leaked out. Needless to say, that was not the most productive maple season.
Marty used the flat pan until he graduated to a Grimm 2x6 evaporator. He enlisted the help of his brother Michael Giuliano and best friend Kevin Tyler. From 1978 - 1981, he bucket collected sap from 240 taps on the Axin Farm in Shokan where his mother, Florence Eckart, was raised. His day job as an excavator and successful log home builder had led him to discovering a farm in New Kingston. Marty moved the sap operation, and for seven years took on an ambitious 2,500 taps, boiling in two 5x12 fuel fired evaporators, state of the art equipment for the times. He sold most of his finished product in bulk.
PHOTO OF A PHOTO OF NEW KINGSTON SAPHOUSE
In 1989, Marty moved his maple enterprise back to West Shokan, consolidating his boiling operation. He downsized back to the original Grimm 2x6 evaporator. Presently, he is semi-retired, working with the Catskill Watershed Corporation on septic installations. Still, sugaring is in his blood. In 2011, his wife Mary suggested they convert their log barn, once used as shelter for their miniature horses, into a larger sap house. With some retro-fitting, the structure now very comfortably houses a Sunrise 2x6 drop flu, wood-burning evaporator.
Four years ago, Next Generation Maple Products out of Syracuse asked Marty to test out their new small-scale reverse osmosis machine. He became a believer. The amount of wood needed to boil each season has been cut in half from 5 cords to 2 and 1/2 cords. His operation now also boasts a 300 gallon stainless steel holding tank. With almost 400 taps, in 2018 he collected 4,080 gallons of sap. According to his calculations, last year’s sugar ratio for his trees was 73:1 (73 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. The normal average is 40:1). How can a year like this be profitable, I wondered?
“We don’t do it for the profit, we do it for the fun, it gives us something to do this time of year.” Marty gestures towards his sugaring crew, still consisting of his brother Mike and friend Kevin, expert wood splitter, just discovered to be his cousin though a genealogy test. “It’s a fraternity of sorts, everyone in the business is friends, we help each other out.”
Sadly on March 1, 2018, Marty’s Uncle Bud passed away. He had been making syrup for 75 years. Marty inherited some of his uncle’s trees and customers. Marty sells mostly in bulk, but his syrup can be found locally at the High Falls Co-Op, Emerson Resort, and, coincidentally, Marty’s Mercantile (no relation), just down the road on Rt. 28-A.
Every year, Marty’s Maple Products opens it doors during Maple Weekend, with an average of 100 visitors stopping by for a tour. This year there will be a tapping demonstration, free samples to try and a tasting of maple popcorn, apples in maple syrup, maple tea, maple lemonade and maple donuts.
Lunch time rolled around and Marty invited me to stay. He brought a separate pot of sap to boil and proceeded to cook hot dogs in the slightly sweet boiling water. (Back in the day, Marty tells me, some old-timers, not too concerned with health requirements, would boil the hotdogs directly in their pans to reduce the foaming that occurs during boiling). Laughter ensued, as we sat eating at a table, surrounded by walls of calendars dating back decades with boiling records; steam rising and sometimes collecting above our heads.
“We do a lot of laughing in this building,” says Marty.
FOLLOW THE SIGNS FOR THE MAPLE WEEKEND TOUR
Go to MapleWeekend.nysmaple.com for complete details and addresses of the 34 participating maple producers in the area.
Thinking of taking up the sugaring hobby in your own backyard? Have you already turned to the Internet for a step by step how-to? Read on. The following are lesser-known tips presented to you by backyard boiling pro, Ryan Trapani.
Tips for Making Maple
By Ryan Trapani, Director of Forest Services, CFA
After backyard sugaring for 13 years, here is a list of tips that have worked for me, if you’re thinking of getting into it.
1. Start with the Trees
Tap only the best. The best is medium to large-sized sugar maple trees with big and healthy crowns. The larger the crown, the higher the sugar content normally is, which translates into less time boiling to make that one gallon of syrup. For instance, a maple tree growing in the forest is normally is 50:1, while a maple tree in the open sunshine is normally 33:1.
Begin tapping when the weather forecast shows a good solid week of adequate temperatures sometime after January 1st. Sap will probably run anytime temps are in the mid-30s or higher during the day and below freezing at night. Some producers stick to hard dates on a calendar, but today we have the informational advantage of long-range weather forecasts. I have tapped as early as the first week in January with few drawbacks. Most of the time, I tap sometime in February, but this depends where you are in the Catskills. Elevation and aspect matter. For instance, the north side is cooler and will begin running later, while those located farther down in elevation can expect to tap earlier.
Only place one tap no matter the size. I used to put more taps on larger trees, but since the switch, my ending ratio of syrup per tap has increased to about ½ gallon of syrup per tap. For reference, one quart per tap is considered good. The magic behind one tap per tree is that you’re getting the ‘full power’ in sap from each tap. The second or third tap yields less sap. If you’re a backyard-er and have more trees than you can tap, this makes sense. If you’re cheap like me, it also means you’ll need to tap fewer trees to receive the same amount of sap, which means less equipment to purchase and clean afterwards. Try it.
Cut, split, and dry your sapwood early so it has time to dry. Use only species that burn hot and fast, i.e. aspen, sassafras, white pine, hemlock or catalpa, to ensure a faster boil.
Make sure you have a good method of pre-heating your sap before it enters the larger pan. Cold sap will kill your boil.
Cleanliness can’t be stressed enough. At the end of each day, everything used to hold sap (barring sap buckets) should be placed upside down to hinder microbial growth.
MODERN DAY PLASTIC TAPS AND TUBING REPLACE METAL SPILES AND BUCKETS OF YESTERYEAR
SOME SUGAR HOBBYISTS STILL MAKE USE OF VINTAGE COLLECTION BUCKETS