2008 SPRING

Litchfield, CT --
Contact: Janet L. Serra
Ph: 800-663-1273
Email: lhcvbnwct@aol.com
For Immediate Release

In the scenic Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, the crackling fires and boiling kettles of maple syrup are a tradition, the first happy sign that winter is on the way out. Visitors of all ages are welcome to visit the many sugar shacks on farms and nature centers in this maple-rich region, where fragrant syrup making is in full swing in March. Demonstrations will show the ways it has been done from Native American times to the present.

DOWN ON THE FARM

The newest sugarhouse in the area, Sweet Wind Farm in East Hartland (860-653-2038), invites the whole family to their Maple Festival on March 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will feature maple syrup and sugar making demonstrations, sugarhouse tours, a narrated slide show, a recipe class and story time for kids. Free coffee and syrup samples will be available for all..

Free Open House Maple Days on most Saturdays through early April also will allow visitors to come in and watch the process, ask questions and enjoy the sweet syrup scents. Though their super-modern facility was built in 2005, the Case family has been making maple syrup for over 30 years in Granby. The modern equipment in the new facility makes for high quality syrup as well as products such as maple sugar and lollipops, all for sale.

Lamothe's Sugar House in Burlington, (860-675-5043), one of the largest operations in the region with some 4,000 taps, is also offering free tours on their farm every Saturday and Sunday until the end of March. Visitors will see how maple syrup and sugar are made and enjoy samples of syrup, maple farmhouse coffee, and hot apple cider. The Lamothes also raises golden retrievers and lop-eared bunnies and children can see the adorable pups and bunnies.

Another chance to see maple syrup being made during the first three weekends in March is at Warrup's Farm in Redding, an organic farm operated by the same family since the 1840s. 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. Pure maple syrup and maple sugar can be purchased to take home.

PAST AND PRESENT

Three ways of syrup making, past to present can be seen at the Great Brook Sugarhouse on Sullivan Farm in New Milford on March 17 and 18. The Colonial and Civil War eras and the most high tech modern techniques will be shown.

The Native American way of making maple syrup will be demonstrated at the Algonkian Village at the Institute for Indian Study in Washington on March 15, with staff members serving pancakes topped with delicious local maple syrup. There will be games and crafts for the children.

NATURE CENTER DEMONSTRATIONS

The new Sugar House of the Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury is another opportunity to stand by the roaring wood stove on March weekends and watch the sap cook down into syrup. Demonstrations by staff and volunteers will bring the history, science, and humor of maple syrup production to life. Flanders' maple syrup and other maple products will be available for purchase.

Guided tours at the Sharon Audubon Center all day at the annual Maple Fest on Saturday March 15 will include the Center's working sugarhouse. Samples of the freshly made syrup are handed out to guests. Syrup can be bought at the Center's Nature Store.

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. But 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, contact the Northwest Connecticut 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: (Demonstrations are subject to weather; phone to confirm before making a trip)

Flanders Nature Center Maple Sugar House, Church Hill Rd., Woodbury, CT 06098. Phone: (203) 263-3711.or check the Internet at flandersnaturecenter.org.

Great Brook Sugarhouse at Sullivan Farm, 140 Park Lane, Route 202, New Milford, 860-354-0047, March15, 16, 10 a. m. to 4 p.m. March 1,2, 8,9, 15, 16, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Institute for American Indian Studies, 38 Curtis Road off Route 199, Washington, 860-868-0518, March 15, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Advance Tickets $8 Adults / $6 Children; Tickets at the door $10 Adults / $ 8 Children.or check the Internet at www.birdstone.org.

Lamothe's Sugar House, 89 Stone Road, Burlington, 860-675-5043. Every Saturday and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. February 16 to March 30.or check the Internet at www.lamothesugarhouse.com

Sharon Audubon Center, 325 Route 4, Sharon, 860-364-0520, March 15, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or check the Internet at www.audubon.org/local/sanctuary/sharon

Sweet Wind Farm, 339 South Road, East Hartland, 860-653-2038. March 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Warrup's Farm, John Reed Road off Route 107, West Redding, March 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, noon to 5 p.m. (203) 938-9403.