Litchfield, CT --
Contact: Janet L. Serra
For Immediate Release
When plumes of steam and delicious maple syrup scents rise from the sugar houses, it's the first sure sign that Old Man Winter is on the way out--and good reason to plan a trip to Litchfield Hills in the hills of Northwest Connecticut, In these scenic hills rich with sugar maple trees, mid-February to mid-March is peak time for syrup-making and many special demonstrations are available showing just how thin watery maple sap is turned into sweet golden syrup. The settings range from nature centers to family farms. Many sites offer free tastes as well as syrup and maple products for sale as tasty souvenirs.
Families always enjoy a stop at Lamothe's Sugar House in Burlington, one of the largest operations in the region with some 4,000 taps. The Lamothes also raise golden retrievers and lop-eared bunnies and children can see the adorable pups and bunnies. Tours and demonstrations of maple syrup making will go on every weekend in February and March, and there will be free samples of their maple syrup and other farm products.
For the first three weekends in March, visitors are invited to stand by the roaring wood stove on weekend afternoons and watch the action at the Sugar House of the Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury. Staff and volunteers are on hand to explain the history and science of syrup making.
Warrup's Farm in Redding, a farm operated by the same family since the 1840s, is also open on the first three weekends in March for sugaring demonstrations in the afternoon. A tour shows how the sap comes out of the trees, how it is taken to the storage tank, and then boiled down in the evaporator.
Guided tours at the Sharon Audubon Center all day at the Annual Maple Fest on Saturday March 17 will include the Center's working sugarhouse as well as re-creations of Native American and early colonial sugaring methods. Samples of the fresh syrup are handed out to guests.
Three ways of syrup making, past to present, will be demonstrated at the Great Brook Sugarhouse in New Milford on March 17 and 18, including the Colonial and Civil War eras and today's high-tech methods. The Sugar House is open to all every weekend beginning the second weekend in February.
The Native American way of making maple syrup also will be shown at the Algonquian Village at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington on March 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with staff members serving pancakes topped with delicious local maple syrup. Games and crafts from the children will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
HOW SYRUP IS MADE
The weather has to be just right for the maple sap to begin to rise, with nights below freezing, and days in the 40s to 50s, so peak season can vary. Though equipment has modernized, the basic steps in making maple syrup have not changed. The trees are tapped; the thin, clear watery sap is collected and slowly, slowly simmered until it miraculously thickens into golden, gooey delectable syrup.
In olden days, tapping was done with a ?spile," a small hollow shaft inserted into the trees that allows the sap to drip into buckets. Native Americans did their simmering in a wooden vessel over a fire. Later horse-drawn carts were used to bring the buckets to the sugarhouse to be emptied into big black kettles to be simmered over a wood fire. Today bigger operations tend to attach plastic pipelines to the trees, feeding the sap into tanks that are brought to the sugarhouse on trucks. However, whether the cooking is done with iron kettles or big shiny metal evaporators, the sap must still be boiled down until it thickens. Depending on the sugar content, it can take from 30 to 40 gallons of sap to boil down into a gallon of syrup, which explains why this delicacy comes with a high price tag.
A list of the Litchfield Hills region maple sugaring demonstrations follows. For a free brochure listing all Connecticut sugar houses, more information on winter activities, and a free copy of UNWIND, a 112-page color guide to lodging, dining and all the attractions in the Litchfield Hills of Northwest Connecticut, contact the Northwest CT Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506 or check the Internet at www.litchfieldhills.com.
Litchfield Hills Maple Sugar Demonstrations
Flanders Nature Center, Flanders Road off Route 6, Woodbury, 203-263-3711 or www.flandersnaturecenter.org. Demonstrations: March 3/4, 10/11, 17/18, Hours: 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Great Brook Sugarhouse, 140 Park Lane, Route 202, New Milford, 860-354-0047. Demonstrations: March 17,18, 10 a. m. to 5 p.m. Sugar House is open weekends all season.
Institute for American Indian Studies, 38 Curtis Road off Route 199, Washington, 860-868-0518 or www.birdstone.org. Demonstration: March 17. Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Lamothe's Sugar House, 89 Stone Road, Burlington, 860-675-5043 or www.lamothesugarhouse.com. Demonstrations: February 10 to April 1. Hours: Every Saturday and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m..
Sharon Audubon Center, 325 Route 4, Sharon, 860-364-0520 or www.audubon.org/local/sanctuary/sharon. Demonstrations: March 17. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Warrup's Farm, John Reed Road off Route 107, Redding, (203) 938-9403. Demonstrations: March 3/ 4, 10/11, 17/18. Hours: noon to 5 p.m.