New Producer Spotlight:
Northern Scoop Craft Ice Cream
Northern Scoop Craft Ice Cream is located in North East, PA and owned by food entrepreneur Karey Elliott. A fan of using local as much as possible, they source fresh produce and ingredients from 9 local farms and businesses. This dedication to local yields tasty and unique seasonal flavors. Between pints and ice cream “sammies,” Northern Scoop is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Food for Thought: The Short & Sweet Maple Season with Sweet Nature
In an effort to connect our community with the work and people behind the Market’s products, staff member Livia will be conducting interviews with our producers. This feature is on Sweet Nature, a maple syrup & honey producer from McKean, PA. Thank you to Tom & Kristen Bastow for taking the time to show and tell us about maple syrup making!
Despite the havoc the up-and-down temperatures of this past winter has wreaked on our immune systems, the weather yielded a record maple syrup year. February is when the sap starts flowing and maple farmers have about 6-8 weeks to harvest their sap. This brief window of opportune sap collecting proves to be a challenge, but for 2023, Sweet Nature has already made about 253 gallons thus far— putting them quite close to their 300 gallon goal.
“When the sun comes out, the taps start flowing. They’ll run all night if it stays warm enough (above 40 degree F.) You can see the buds on the trees already. When it gets warm enough for them to bloom, maple season is over,” explained Tom.
Sweet Nature started out with just 50 taps a few years ago as a way to collect a gallon or two of maple syrup for home use. In 2021, they decided to make the leap from hobby to “side hustle” as Tom described it and formed Sweet Nature LLC. These days, they consider themselves a “small-scale” maple farm, and have about 1,100 taps, the majority of them connected by vacuum tubing. Although they do have some traditional gravity buckets around to see how production is going, they’ve found that the vacuum method allows them to get 3-4x the amount of sap that a gravity drip would. Their operation is off-grid: the vacuum does the majority of the work through gravity and density, and solar panels provide energy for any electrical parts on the vacuum and the reverse osmosis machine. Since the maple sap is about 98% water, the reverse osmosis machine helps distill and remove much of that water so the boiler can run more sparingly and efficiently.
These upgrades were brought on by the success of Sweet Nature and those who are as passionate about local as we at Edinboro Market are. Tom said, “Most of the money from our product goes right back into our business to be able to make the process bigger and faster. The Market is a great way for local small business to be able get their product to the local buyers.”
Above (L): Clear sap runs from a tap and into the tubing that transports the sap.
(R): Sweet Nature’s boiler, the machine responsible for the final transformation
of sap into syrup.
Although Sweet Nature will not be participating in this year’s Maple Taste & Tour, they talked about their previous participation and recommend that those interested in maple syrup making should check it out. Tom says: “The tour is a great way to educate yourself on how syrup is made and how difficult it is. All producers make syrup the same but in different ways and sizes. If you go to five sugar houses, you will find five different places making syrup somewhat different but all have the same end product.”
Maple Taste & Tour
This weekend, (March 11 & 12), is the NWPA Maple Taste & Tour, brought to you by the Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Syrup Producers Association. The event runs from 10 am – 4 pm each day. There are over 17 different farms on the tour, include one of our producers, Hurry Hill Maple Farm, who wrote the Maple Syrup Recipe book you’ll find at the Market. Hurry Hill is opening their Maple Museum this weekend, so be sure to check that out to learn about the process of maple syrup making, past and present.
We are closing this maple craze with an easy-peasy DIY Maple Dijon Vinaigrette dressing. Thanks again to our partner, @kitchenandkay on Instagram, for creating this delicious and seasonally-inspired recipe. Perfect for a winter salad with greens, apples and nuts, or on top of roasted veggies!