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Mayville’s Gerber enhances recipes with homemade maple syrup

March 24, 2016
By Beverly Kehe-Rowland ( , Westfield Republican

"I'm so tuned-in to the seasons now - the robins, seed catalogs, maple season. I wasn't as aware living in the suburbs," says Tara Gerber of Mayville. She grew up in State College, Pa., but was familiar with Chautauqua County and had been introduced to Chautauqua Institution in her teens, after her parents purchased Chautauqua Inn on the institution grounds. There was a time when she, her husband, John, and their children spent summers at Chautauqua, eventually managing the Inn.

Her husband grew up on a farm near Oxford, Ohio. After the couple lived in Ohio for several years, they spent some time in the Southwestern part of the United States. While living in the Buckeye State, Gerber had been the curator of a museum that had a large Navajo collection, so the couple had been drawn to the Southwest. After deciding the Southwest wasn't where they hoped to settle, they moved to Mrs. Gerber's hometown in Pennsylvania. In time they bought a large home in Mayville with 27 acres of land which became their secondary home for the first couple of years, after which it became their primary residence. Since then, they have acquired land on both sides of the property and now own nearly 100 acres.

"When we moved here, it was a change of lifestyle from State College. What started out as a garden, chickens for eggs and meat and bees for honey, evolved into getting 15 sheep that had been bred. We now have 60 ewes and several lambs," she said. The family also has five Nubian goats which they milk. She likes goat's milk better than the milk given by a Jersey cow they once owned and uses it in her cooking, baking and cheese production. The family drinks it as well. The cow's milk was used in yogurt, ice cream and butter. The goose eggs from their American Buff Geese are "too rich to eat alone," so she uses them in quiche and for baking.

Article Photos

Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland
Tara Gerber tries to incorporate maple syrup or maple sugar into every dish she prepares for her family.

"I hope to experiment with making goat's milk soap," she says.

The family raises pigs for meat. Mrs. Gerber assists her husband when it is time to butcher.

For the last six years the Gerbers have made maple syrup and will be participating in Maple Weekend which takes place this weekend and the weekend after Easter, April 2 and 3. According to the website, "Every spring, members of the New York State Maple Producers Association invite families and friends into their 'sugar houses' to experience the world of pure NY maple syrup."

"It is a wonderful opportunity for people to see the process of making maple syrup and to see our product," says Gerber. The Gerbers will be providing carriage rides today and Saturday, April 2, at their Clear Creek Farm, located at 5067 Morris Road, Mayville.

"My husband has his family's (sap) buckets. The first year that we tapped trees, we used them. We bought snowshoes and pictured the children helping with the buckets," she smiles. "That lasted one year. It was fun, but hard work. We had a little evaporator."

"The following year is when he started with tubing and a vacuum pump. We have 1,800 taps now. It was a social event for his family and it kind of is now for us. People will stop when they see smoke coming out of the chimney. If you're drawing off, everyone loves fresh, warm syrup," she said.

She learned to cook in home economics class in high school.

"My mother and grandmother cooked, so I was aware of that, but I didn't cook when I was single," she says. "Part of our conditions for getting married was that I wasn't cooking. John knew how to cook, but I decided at one point to start cooking and got cookbooks."

"It was the intention to get back to basics when we moved here and it was so nice to say that 'this whole meal came from the farm,'" she continues. "Any time a recipe calls for brown sugar or honey, I use maple syrup and maple sugar. If I think what I am using can use maple syrup, I use it."

The couple has added an outdoor brick fire oven to their property in which she has experimented making bread, pizza and casseroles.

"We try to do several loaves and then put the casserole in afterward," she says.

She developed the recipe for the green lentil stew, using hams smoked by her husband in their smokehouse. She cooks the ham in diluted maple syrup with lentils to which carrots and baby greens are added. Her husband likes to add hot sauce to this dish.

"This recipe came about because we butcher and smoke our own hams. I've discovered it can be a nice side dish and can be served over pasta or even served cold," she says. "I doctored another recipe to use for the Super Bowl, to get the spicy maple wings. We've discovered that we like spicy maple. There is a technique to creating depth and flavor."

The maple granola is a great breakfast cereal or snack or can be served over plain yogurt sweetened with maple syrup and served as a dessert.

"Adding maple syrup to the cornbread came about because I make every effort to use maple syrup as our sweetener. It's our local product," she says. "When we had our Jersey cow, I made an abundant amount of yogurt. Yogurt creates a denser and moister cornbread that my children prefer. Add maple butter and/or maple syrup to individual pieces for a dessert or snack."

Mrs. Gerber worked as a licensed social worker with Children and Family Services when she resided in Ohio. She now enjoys doing chores alongside her husband. They also fly fish and trail ride. She is currently taking dressage lessons and would love to have a shop to sell collectibles, honey, eggs and maple syrup.

The couple has five children. Anna is a student at Skidmore College, John is a freshman at Cleveland Institute of Art and David is a senior at a Montessori High School in Cleveland. Elijah is a freshman and Gwen is in sixth grade at Chautauqua Lake Central School. They have three Norwich terriers.

Following are Mrs. Gerber's recipes, of which all use maple syrup.


Spicy Maple Wings

2 lbs chicken wings, disjointed and tips discarded

1/4 c maple syrup

1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp dried mustard

1/2 tsp chipotle chili pepper

1/8 tsp chili oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place wings on a rack over foil-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake wings 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix all other ingredients. Add wings to bowl and toss to coat all sides evenly. Return wings to rack and continue baking another 30 minutes, turning periodically for even cooking. Actual bake time depends on thickness of wings. Serves 4-6.

Cranberry Sauce

1 bag cranberries

1/2 c maple syrup (have extra on hand to sweeten to taste)

1/2 c water

1 tsp orange zest (less, if desired)

Rinse and drain cranberries. Pick out any undesirable ones. Combine cranberries, syrup and water in medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to thicken, about 5 minutes depending on your preference. Remove pan from burner and stir in orange zest. Taste. Add more syrup, if desired.

Maple Granola

6 c rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)

2 c mixed nuts/seeds

1 c shredded coconut, optional

1 tsp or less cinnamon, if desired

Dash salt

1 c maple syrup

1 c dried chopped fruit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats, nuts/seeds, coconut, cinnamon, salt and syrup in a bowl. Spread evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet with a rim. Bake 30 minutes or longer, if needed. The oats are softer after baking 15 minutes, which some prefer. The browner the mixture, the crunchier the granola. Stir mixture several times and don't let burn. After desired texture is reached, pour granola into a bowl. Add dried fruit. Mix. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing in a sealed container. Refrigerate indefinitely.

Green Lentil Stew

1 lb green lentils

2 c diced carrots

1 c diced onions

2 c chopped greens (kale, spinach, red beet greens)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves

1/2 lb slab bacon, sliced

1 center cut smoked ham slice

1 c maple syrup

5-7 c water

Butter as needed

Pepper sauce of your choosing

Lentils: Sort and rinse well. Add lentils, syrup and 6 cups water to a large stock pot. (I start out with 6 cups of water, adding more later if necessary to keep lentils from drying out.) Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover with lid ajar. Cook approximately 30-45 minutes, depending on preference of tenderness. Keep an eye on lentils in case more water is needed.

Ham: Cut out the center bone with some meat still attached and put into stock pot with the lentils. Dice remaining ham for adding to stew later.

Fry bacon pieces in large frying pan, removing just before crisp. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon, leaving fat in pan. Set bacon aside. Add butter to the pan, if needed to increase fat to 2 tablespoons. Allow to cool slightly before adding onions and carrots. Slowly cook until onions are golden. Carrots may still be crisp. Add garlic and thyme. If using dried thyme, stir vegetables until garlic and thyme are mixed. Reduce heat to low and cover, heating about 5 minutes. This is to further soften carrots and warm garlic. Raise heat slightly. Add chopped greens. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, taking care to mix greens with other vegetables. Add diced ham to warm.

When lentils are tender, carefully ladle into frying pan with vegetables. Add as many lentils and as much broth as desired. Discard bone. (Save extra lentils and liquid for another meal. This can be a great dish as a stew [lots of liquid] or as a casserole-like dish [less liquid] with salad on the side.) Once lentils and liquid are added, cover and simmer about 5 minutes. Check seasoning. Salt to taste. Add hot pepper sauce to make spicy to taste. Top individual dishes with cooked bacon. This is intended to be a sweet, salty and spicy dish.

Note: Instructions are not meant to be complicated. It is a simple lentils, ham, onion, carrots dish with a balance of flavors.

Maple Cornbread

1 c flour

1 c stone ground cornmeal

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 c plain yogurt

1/3 c maple syrup

1/4 c butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease an 8" x 8" baking dish. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; stir with whisk. Combine yogurt, syrup, butter and eggs in a small bowl; stir with whisk. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Stir just until moist. Batter will be thick. Spoon batter into baking dish, smoothing top. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Maple Butter

1/2 c butter, room temperature

2 T maple syrup, room temperature

Combine butter and syrup in small bowl; beat at high speed until light and fluffy.

Maple Balsamic


4 T extra virgin olive oil

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 T maple syrup

1 tsp Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in jar. Put on lid and shake. Use as dressing on spinach salad or tender greens of kale and red beets.

Maple Rum Cocktail

2 oz dark rum

1 tsp or more maple syrup

2 oz milk or half and half

Shake vigorously with ice in shaker. Serves 1.

Maple Bundt Cake

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c maple sugar, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 c maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 c yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 10 inch Bundt pan. Dust with flour and tap out excess. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Cream butter and maple sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in maple syrup and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, adding some yogurt after each, beginning with flour and ending with flour. Beat just until combined after each addition of yogurt.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Set timer for 35 minutes. Adding 5 minutes at a time until cake is golden brown and tester comes out clean when inserted into middle of cake. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out to finish cooling.

Note: Maple sugar is often available from your local maple producer. Serve with ice cream drizzled with maple syrup.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Maple Pineapples:

1-20 oz can sliced pineapple, drained

1/2 c butter

1 1/2-2 c maple syrup (if you want syrup to spread out into dish use 2 cups)

Slice drained pineapple slices in half. Place ingredients in a large skillet and boil for 5-10 minutes over medium-high heat. Sauce should thicken slightly. Keep an eye on this process as it could boil over if temperature is too hot. Once thickened, carefully remove pineapple slices and place them in the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron pan. Arrange slices in a design like flower petals. They will be snug. Pour the caramel into the pan. Set aside at room temperature.


1 c flour (plus 2 T, if using 2 cups syrup)

5 T granulated maple sugar

2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 c milk

1 egg

1/2 c maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and work in the butter until it makes pea-size crumbs. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. (Be sure pineapple has cooled to room temperature, before proceeding.) Add egg, milk and syrup mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix until blended. Don't over mix. Pour the mixture into the pan over the pineapple.

Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out dry, 45-50 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto serving plate. Set aside.

Maple Cherries

1 c frozen cherries

1/4 c maple syrup

2 T granulated maple sugar

In a skillet, saute cherries in maple syrup over medium-high heat until warmed through. Sprinkle the cherries with maple sugar and continue cooking until juices are bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Carefully spread cherries on top of pineapples. Drizzle cherry sauce on top, if desired.

Note: Because I make this in winter, I've only used frozen sweet cherries picked in the summer. I believe fresh pineapple and cherries could be used since all are cooked. Pineapple and maple syrup are great together. This is a rich dessert and goes well with fresh whipped cream flavored with maple syrup.



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