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The Art and Science of Maple Sugaring in Connecticut PDF Print E-mail
Written by Debra C. Argen and Edward F. Nesta   
Pure Connecticut Maple Syrup - photo by Luxury Experience
Love maple syrup? Have you thanked a tree today? Maple sugaring in Connecticut is a time-honored and very tasty tradition that depending on the weather runs from early February through late March. We visited two maple sugarhouses, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, and River's Edge Sugarhouse to learn about the art and science of making maple syrup.

 

Lisa Monachelli - Stamford Museum & Nature Center - photo by Luxury Experience
Lisa Monachelli tending to the maple sap

We cannot imagine what pancakes or waffles would be without maple syrup. Although some people may use honey, we grew up on maple syrup liberally applied over melted butter on our pancakes and waffles. We love all things maple: syrup, maple sugar candy, maple cotton candy, and Litchfield Distillery Maple Bourbon. Maple syrup is delicious used in culinary and cocktail recipes.

To learn more about maple syrup, we visited the family-owned River's Edge Sugarhouse in Ashford, Connecticut in October 2021 and met with owner Bill Proulx, who started making maple syrup in 1993 with 20 taps and produced about 2 gallons of syrup. By 1997 he built a sugarhouse, expanded to 800 taps, and bought a professional evaporator. In 1999, he enlarged his sugarhouse, expanded to 2300+ taps, and recently bought an even larger evaporator. Maple syrup is his passion, and he also produces honey as well.

Bill Proulx, Edward F. Nesta - River's Edge Sugarhouse - photo by Luxury Experience
Bill Proulx and Edward F. Nesta
River's Edge Sugarhouse

We also went to the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford, Connecticut for their Maple Sugar Fest Sundays (February 21 - March 7) on Sunday, February 28, 2021 to experience the art and science of making maple syrup demonstrated by Lisa Monachelli. Located on 118 acres that was once a private estate, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center has over 200+ mature maple trees that they can harvest for their maple syrup.

What we learned about maple syrup by visiting River's Edge Sugarhouse and the Stamford Museum & Nature Center was truly fascinating.

Interesting Facts about Maple Syrup

Edward F. Nesta with maple sap bucketi - Stamford Museum & Nature Center - photo by Luxury Experience
Bucket attached to tree to collect maple sap

Maple syrup is a sustainable product as mature sugar maple trees can be tapped for their sap year after year once they reach maturity (around 45 years) without damaging the trees. Once the sap has stopped running for the season, the tap is removed, and the hole will seal up. The following season, the tree can be tapped again by making a new hole in a different area of the tree.

Why is Maple Syrup Expensive?

Maple sap has an extremely short season that is completely weather dependent. Typically, the Connecticut maple season runs from February until the end of March, when freezing cold nights followed by warm, sunny days signal the trees to start producing sap. The trees are then "tapped" by drilling a small hole in the tree and inserting a metal spout into the tree and hanging a bucket below the spout to collect the sap. Interesting to note is that commercial producers will run plastic tubing from the holes in their trees to a central collecting point, versus collecting from buckets on individual trees. Once the nights become warmer, or the trees start to bud, the sap stops running, signifying the end of the season.

Maple Sap tube collection system - Stamford Museum & Nature Center - photo by Luxury Experience
Tube system to collect maple sap

Maple sap is a clear liquid with a slightly sweet taste that consists of 98 parts water to 2 parts sap. A typical tree can produce between 5 - 15 gallons of sap per season, and it takes 40 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of syrup. However, the amount of sap produced can vary greatly from year to year depending on the weather.

Outdoor Fire to boil maple sap - Stamford Museum & Nature Center - photo by Luxury Experience
Old way to boil and evaporate water from maple sap

Once the sap is gathered, it must be boiled to evaporate the water and concentrate the sugar. This was once done by boiling the sap in kettles over an open flame. Today, maple syrup producers use large wood-burning evaporators that boil the sap and release steam. The boiling process concentrates the sugar and creates a rich, golden, sweet maple syrup.

Maple Syrup Grades - River's Edge Sugarhouse - photo by Luxury Experience

Making the Grade - Grades of Syrup

Maple syrup is graded by color; the longer it takes to boil the sap and evaporate the water and concentrate the sugar, the darker the syrup. Despite the color difference and difference in taste, all grades of maple syrup have the same density and sugar content of 66.9%. United States grades its maple syrup as: Grade A Golden = delicate taste, Grade A Amber = rich taste, and Grade A Dark = robust taste.

Tools of the maple syrup process  - Stamford Museum & Nature Center - photo by Luxury Experience
Tools of the maple sap process

Maple Cocktail Recipes

While pancakes and waffles are delicious topped with maple syrup, maple syrup and maple products are also fabulous in cocktails. Luxury Experience was "In the Kitchen and Behind the Bar" TM creating a few tasty maple cocktails for you to enjoy. Cheers, its cocktail time!

Luxury Experience Cocktail Recipes

Luxury Experience - Johnny A Caramel Martini - photo by Luxury Experience

Luxury Experience - Johnny A Caramel Martini
Yield: 1 Cocktail
Glass Used: Martini Glass

Caramel Rim Ingredients:

 

1
Ounce
Apple Cider
1
Ounce
1
Ounce
Heavy Cream

Method: Add the apple cider and maple syrup to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes to reduce. Slowly add the heavy cream and boil until mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, about 2-3 minutes. Turn caramel out onto parchment paper. Turn martini glass upside down into the caramel to rim the glass. Rims can be made several hours ahead, making them perfect for a party or for restaurant bar use.

Cocktail Ingredients:

 

1.5
Ounces
0.5
Ounce
Neige Cidre De Glace
2
Ounces
Apple Juice

Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker with 4 ice cubes. Shake hard to chill. Strain into the caramel rim martini glass.

Luxury Experience Maple Bourbon Chai Latte - photo by Luxury Experience

Luxury Experience - Maple Bourbon Chai Latte

Spirited coffee drinks are always an elegant way to end an evening of fine dining, however why should coffee have all the fun and not tea? We created Luxury Experience - Maple Bourbon Chai Latte with TAZO Organic Chai (a rich robust blend of black tea, cinnamon, cardamon, black pepper and spices), Litchfield Distillery Maple Bourbon, Unsweetened Almond Milk, sweetened with Trees Knees Spicy Maple (maple syrup with a spicy blend of chile peppers), topped with cappuccino foam., and served in a snifter glass. Lightly dusted with cinnamon powder and garnished with a cinnamon stick, Luxury Experience - Maple Bourbon Chai Latte is an easy to drink, easy to love way to end an evening. Perfect as a hot after dinner drink, this also works well served over ice as a delightful summer drink.

Luxury Experience - Maple Bourbon Chai Latte

Yield: 1 Cocktail
Glass Used: Snifter Glass

Cocktail Ingredients:

 

2
Ounces
4
Ounces
Hot TAZO Chai, (1 teabag in 8 ounces water)
1
Ounce
Almond Milk, unsweetened
3
Teaspoons
Trees Knees Spicy Maple Syrup
Cappuccino Foam
Cinnamon Powder, Cinnamon Stick, garnish

Method for the Cocktail: Bring 8 ounces of water to a boil. Add TAZO Chai teabag. Steep for 5 minutes.

In a mixing glass, add the Litchfield Distillery Maple Bourbon, TAZO Chai, almond milk, and Trees Knees Spicy Maple. Stir to combine. Pour into a snifter glass, generously top with cappuccino foam (use skim milk to create the foam as almond milk does not froth), lightly dust with cinnamon powder and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Luxury Experience - Maple Cotton Candy Martini - photo by Luxury Experience

Luxury Experience - Maple Cotton Candy Martini

We fell in love with Parker's Maple Cotton Candy at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center's Maple Sugar Fest. We created Luxury Experience - Maple Cotton Candy Martini to celebrate maple season in Connecticut. Made with Litchfield Distillery Vanilla Bourbon, 100% organic Parker's Maple Cotton Candy, and fresh lemon juice, this martini will make bourbon lovers proud.

Luxury Experience - Maple Cotton Candy Martini
Yield: 1 Cocktail
Glass Used: Martini Glass

Cocktail Ingredients:

 

2.0
Ounces
0.25
Ounce
Fresh Lemon Juice
1
Ounce
Cold Water
4
Ice Cubes
1
Mound

Method for the Cocktail: Chill a martini glass then add a generous mound of Parker's Maple Cotton Candy in the glass. In a cocktail shaker, add the Litchfield Distillery Vanilla Bourbon, lemon juice, water, and 4 ice cubes. Shake until metal shaker is frosty and ice has melted. Slowly strain over the cotton candy and watch "magic" happen. Cheers!

VIDEO - How to make Luxury Experience - Maple Cotton Candy Martini - https://youtu.be/LJ9MLTkeJ6w

Until our next adventure!

Pure Connecticut Maple Syrup - photo by Luxury Experience

For more information on River's Edge Sugarhouse, please visit their website: www.riversedgesugarhouse.com

River's Edge Sugarhouse - Ashford, CT, USA

River's Edge Sugarhouse
326 Mansfield Road (Route 89)
Ashford, Connecticut 06278
Telephone: +1-860-429-1510
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: www.riversedgesugarhouse.com

For more information on the Stamford Museum & Nature Center and their upcoming events, please visit their website: www.StamfordMuseum.org.

Read more about the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in the Destinations section.

Stamford Museum & Nature Center, Stamford, CT, USA

Stamford Museum & Nature Center
Main Entrance: 39 Scofieldtown Road
Farmhouse Entrance: 151 Scofieldtown Road
Stamford, Connecticut 06903
Telephone: +1-203-977-6521
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: www.StamfordMuseum.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stamfordmuseumandnaturecenter
Instagram: @stamford_museum_naturecenter
Twitter: @sm_nc

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March 2021. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.

 
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