Record-breaking low temperatures, weekly snow storms and polar vortices be damned — it is maple sugaring season on Long Island. In spite of this frigorific weather, our days are getting longer, the sun is getting higher and the sap is beginning to flow in sugar maples. No need to hightail it up to the Green Mountain State to experience the time-honored practice of maple sugaring and to taste straight-from-the-source maple syrup; East Setauket is Long Island’s maple syrup hub.
The Benner family has been producing small quantities of quality maple syrup on their 15-acre East Setauket farm for the past 35 years. Benner’s Farm is a real working farm and educational center. They welcome school and scout groups year-round, host a very popular summer camp and run several seasonal celebrations (May Day, Strawberry Fair and Harvest Festival). It seemed only natural that they would throw open the gates to the farm in late winter to educate the public about maple sugaring. Their annual Maple Sugaring Day is on Saturday, February 21 from noon to 4 p.m. at the farm on Gnarled Hollow Road. Put on your thermal undies and wear boots, because this is a real-deal maple sugaring experience. Visitors can walk through the snow covered fields to see the tapped trees and then watch as the sap is boiled down over open wood fires. Head into the farmhouse to warm up and learn how the syrup is finished and how to make maple candy. Sample fresh-griddled pancakes swimming in locally produced syrup and then buy a jar or two to take home. Pancakes and maple syrup are sure to warm and sweeten these last few weeks of winter.