Growing up, John Garigliano’s family owned land in Grahamsville, New York, where they also had a small sugar house. For fun, John, his brothers and father would tap trees in the area and make maple syrup. John now runs the day-to-day operations of the Catskill Mountain Sugar House, and that same sugar house he used as a child has since expanded tenfold from its original size. It is also used as one of the ten collection facilities taking in sap for maple syrup production.
John went to school at Auburn, Alabama, where he studied agricultural economics. After graduating, he came back to New York, which happened to be right around maple season. John decided he would fix up the sugar house, building it up a bit and installing some additional taps. He’d worry about working come Spring. To his family’s surprise, they had a pretty okay year, and decided to invest more money into the business. John, his brothers, and their father realized there may be money to make in the maple syrup business. Lots of people produce maple syrup, but in their area, most were small hobbyists. They had a feeling they could take that same love for making syrup, but do it on a larger scale, so they decided to give it a go.
John has been a sugarmaker for 10 years now. The family taps 65,000 trees encompassing about 850 acres of land. The farm has 10 collection facilities, with the largest collecting sap from over 25,000 taps. Throughout the sugaring season, they collect over 1 million gallons of sap. This is then turned into anywhere from 15 to 18 thousand gallons of maple syrup of which they always sell out. All 65,000 trees need to be tapped during dormancy, which is the coldest time of year. Once January hits, it takes 20 workers, 7 days a week, putting taps in from sun up to sun down, to get the job done.
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” John told us, “‘cause January weather can be a challenge in the Catskills. It’s pretty brutal.”
Catskill Mountain Sugar House keeps all their taps under vacuum. Changes in atmospheric pressure affects sap flow. The vacuum reduces pressure in the tree, encouraging sap to flow. Vacuum systems are just one of the ways sugarmakers attempt to stop Mother Nature from having complete control over their process.
After collecting the raw sap, it is transported by former milk tankers with stainless tanks to the sugarhouse. Once the sap leaves the 50,000 gallons of on-site stainless storage tanks, it begins a continuous flow to become syrup. The sap’s journey begins with processing of the sap by reverse osmosis equipment. These machines remove distilled water from the sap, increasing the concentration of sugar from an average of 2% to 16%. 7/8ths of the water is either discarded back to Mother Nature or stored for daily cleaning of the tanks and equipment.
The concentrated sap is then further concentrated into maple syrup by boiling the sap in a large oil-fired evaporator. The syrup exits the evaporator at 67.5% sugar, the farm’s target for its finished product. The syrup is then finished by filtering via a high-pressure plate filter. From there, the syrup is hot packed at 200 degrees into food-grade stainless steel drums which are stored in a climate-controlled warehouse. Think humongous wine cellar!
Syrup in drums is transferred from the storage area drums to another part of the sugarhouse for packaging to fill customer orders. This involves reheating the syrup to 185+ degrees, filling jugs, pails, bottles, or other vessels as specified by customers, using bottling equipment specially made for this purpose.
John and his family have invested a lot into making sure everything the sap or syrup touches is stainless steel. Although plastic would have been a cheaper and easier alternative, stainless steel preserves the rich taste of their syrup to make it the high-quality product customers expect.
Catskill Mountain Sugar House has their own line of maple syrup which can be found in a handful of grocery and specialty stores in The Valley, but they supply much more. Customers include a number of food manufacturers. Syrup is sold to scores of high-end New York City restaurants and exported to Malaysia, Singapore, and even to the United Arab Emirates in jugs with labels translated to Arabic.
“They go everywhere, in every shape, form, or fashion; you name it, we sell it.”
The Garigliano family realizes that customers not only want farm fresh food, they want to know where it’s coming from. Doing business is personal, and great customer service is not optional.
“What you see here is the easy part,” talking about the facility where the syrup is produced, John told us, “you can control what happens in the building; you can’t control the high winds, dead trees, insects, or Mother Nature’s impact on our trees.” That is why Catskill Mountain Sugar House prides itself on the hard work they put in to consistently keep an eye on every stage of the process, expecting the unexpected, but always creating a quality product.
Phone: (845) 985 – 7815
Click Here to visit Catskill Mountain Sugar House’s website