By Rick Miller

The first maple sap was a long time coming this season. Cold temperatures locked the sap in the trees.

Last week, Brandon Blesy boiled his first run of sap into delicious amber syrup. 

The smell of maple syrup bubbling in the gas-fired evaporator filled the sugar shanty on Henrietta Road in the town of Ashford.

Located just off Route 219, the Blesy Farm has a couple of woods full of maple trees.

“We’ve got about 850 taps this year,” Blesy said as he watched the sap. “I added 250 more taps this year all on tubing. The weather has been so cold, I didn’t tap until last week.”

Several miles of tubing wind through the woodlots collecting sap flowing from the trees with the help of vacuum systems. The vacuum assist pulls more sap from the trees. It’s collected in 250-gallon tanks at the vacuum sheds and pumped into tanks mounted on a wagon Blesy pulls to the woods and back to the sugar shanty with a tractor.

Blesy has been making maple syrup at Blesy Farms for nine years. He started in a much more modest sugar shack on the property. New regulations that prohibit any lead solder in the pans meant buying a new evaporator a few years ago.

Since it is more concentrated — the sap starts out at 2 percent sugar and is at 8 percent after reverse osmosis — a smaller evaporator can be used that uses far less natural gas.

When the bubbling maple syrup gets to the right temperature, it automatically drains into a container and is stored until he’s ready to filter and bottle the maple syrup. 

Blesy said he sells about 100 gallons at the Apple Dumpling Restaurant in Springville, the hardware store and word-of-mouth.

“I’ve set a goal of 250 gallons this year,” Blesy said. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. 

Any remaining barrels are sold in bulk and shipped to Vermont where the maple syrup is used to add a tiny bit of maple flavor to table syrup that is mostly corn syrup, he said.

“All the money goes back into the business,” Blesy said. “I have fun doing it. It’s a hobby. There’s something different every day and I enjoy it.”

He’s hoping the late start to the season isn’t a bad sign. “It will be worth the wait. I think it will still be a good season.”

This is the first year Blesy has participated in New York’s Maple Weekends. They are March 23–24 and March 30–31. 

“We’ll have maple cotton candy, maple cookies and Maple syrup for sale, Blesy said. There will be samples and maple products for sale.

The address of Blesy’s sugar shanty is 7129 Henrietta Road, Springville, but it is located in Cattaraugus County. From Route 219, turn left before you cross the new bridge on Old Route 219 (Miller Road).

Four other Cattaraugus County maple producers are participating in Maple Weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both weekends

Boberg’s Maple, 2298 Edmunds Road, Delevan. Phone (716) 378-8736.

Moore’s Maple Shack and Pancake House, 10444 Galen Hill Road, Freedom. Phone (716) 492-2714.

Sprague’s Maple Farm and Restaurant, 1048 Route 305, Portville. Phone (716) 933-6637.

Wright Maple Farm, 9166 Laidlaw Road, Farmersville. Phone (716) 474-7474.