By Mary Peryea
There’s been a sweet addition to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market – Slate Valley Farms.
Slate Valley sells maple syrup, honey, and an array of related products including spun maple sugar, molded maple sugar, maple sugar, and maple cream. All of the syrup and honey is produced on the 101-acre family-run farm in the hills of Granville near the Vermont border. Owner Pat Imbimbo, also holds sole rights to maple zest, a secret concoction of maple sugar, pepper, and orange zest which is exceptional on salmon, pork chops, and chicken.
Imbimbo and his daughter Gina began selling at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market in November. Slate Valley also offers its products at the farmers’ market in Schenectady and through gift crates available through its website, unclepatsgeneralstore.com.
Imbimbo retired from the Florida State Police in 2001. He attended the Cornell Maple School and the Cornell Beekeeping School to hone his skills, and currently taps 3,000 trees annually.
The sap-gathering is all automated, using a vacuum system that Imbimbo monitors on his iPhone. The boiling is done via a reverse osmosis system, which removes much of the water before the actual boiling. This results in less boiling time, using less fuel, and gives a better quality syrup. Imbimbo produced 509 gallons of syrup in 2015 and 362 gallons last year. These changes in production are intimately tied to the weather. Sap only flows when temperatures rise above freezing during the day and drop below it during the night.
Like maple, honey is weather dependent. Imbimbo’s bee yard contains 46 colonies of bees currently. He was able to produce 2,100 pounds of honey this year, compared to 3,600 pounds last year. The dry weather last summer resulted in less nectar. As well, heavy rains will wash the nectar off the blooms. Three years ago, when the weather was perfect, Imbimbo was able to harvest 5,600 pounds.
Imbimbo says the color of the honey depends on what blooms the bees gather nectar from. He harvests honey three times a year, and filters the raw honey through a stainless steel strainer.
While Imbimbo loves the maple business, he is especially fond of his bees. As he jokingly puts it, “Nobody bothers me in the bee yard.”
Visit the Saratoga Farmers’ Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through April at the Lincoln Baths Building in the Saratoga Spa State Park.
Garlic Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
1/4 cup butter
6 chicken leg quarters, split into drumsticks and thighs
6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
24 cloves garlic, unpeeled
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. Place the butter into a roasting pan, and melt in the oven. When butter is melted, swirl to coat the bottom of the roasting pan, and place the chicken drumsticks and thighs, potatoes, and unpeeled garlic cloves into the pan.
3. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper; turn the chicken, potatoes, and garlic to coat with butter.
4. Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is no longer pink inside and the juices run clear, about 40 minutes, basting 3 times with pan drippings.
5. Brush maple syrup over the chicken pieces, and spoon pan drippings over the potatoes.
6. Return to oven, and bake until the chicken and potatoes are tender and browned, about 20 more minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into a thick part of a thigh should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
7. To serve, squeeze garlic from the baked cloves, and spread the soft garlic over the chicken. Pour pan juices over chicken and potatoes.
(Note: Please feel free to vary the number of garlic cloves if 24 seems like a lot!)