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Touring Connecticut’s Sugarhouses During Maple Syrup Season!

Think maple sugaring, and you probably think Vermont, right? Or maybe Quebec, the biggest producer of maple syrup in the world?

Well, guess what: Connecticut lays claim to its very own passel of world-class sugarmakers, and now’s the time of year to sample their marvelous product. That’s right: It’s the sugaring season in the Constitution State!

That means it’s a fantastic time to come stay with us here at Winvian Farm in the lovely Litchfield Hills. Our tranquil setting puts a slew of notable “sugarhouses” within your easy reach.

Maple Sugaring Basics

First though, a little maple-sugaring background. The technique of tapping maple trees for their sap and boiling it down to produce that sweet syrup—or boiling it further to make maple sugar—comes from the American Indians. Tribes from the Upper Great Lakes to New England tell various legends of the process’s discovery, a widely known one attributing it to a happy accident: A chief randomly tossed a tomahawk into a sugar maple, the sap oozed down into a birchbark basket at the base of the trunk, and the chief’s wife, assuming the basket’s pooled liquid was water, poured it into some venison she was cooking—the resulting sweet flavor an immediate hit.

European settlers learned sugarmaking 101 from indigenous North Americans, and the basics haven’t changed much from pioneer days. Maples are tapped in so-called “sugarbushes”: groves maintained specially for the purpose. The magic ingredients getting the sap to flow? The transitional weather of late winter and early spring: an alternation of warm days and cold nights, which means Connecticut’s sugaring season typically falls in February and March.

Sugarmakers collect the sap with a hammered-in spout and a hanging bucket, or pipe it into a tank. The sap’s then boiled to evaporate off its water inside the “sugarhouse.” The modern-day procedure involves careful filtering and sorting to properly grade the finished product. (Learn more about the sugarmaking process at the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut’s website.)

Sampling Connecticut Maple Syrup

Many sugarhouses open their doors this time of year for tours and demonstrations of the sugarmaking process. Needless to say, it’s a blast to check out the operations up-close—and, of course, sample some of the end result.

Here are a few sugarhouses not far from Winvian Farm: ideal daytrips from our Litchfield Hills paradise!

 

Lamothe’s Sugar House

89 Stone Road, Burlington, CT

860-675-5043

Tours (plus free coffee and hot apple cider!) offered 1 to 4:30 PM on weekend days from mid-February through the end of March. Maple syrup for sale, not to mention kettle corn, honey, pancake mix, and other goodies.

 

Brookside Farm II

79 East Chestnut Hill Rd., Litchfield, CT

860-567-3805 or 860-567-3890

Small family-run operation open for visits (call ahead) mid-February through March and selling maple syrup year-round.

 

Flanders Nature Center

5 Church Hill Road, Woodbury, CT

203-263-3711, ext. 12

Check out the nature center’s sugarhouse and delve into the history of sugarmaking—and enjoy some maple goodies as you do!

 

Brothers & Sons Sugarhouse

998 Saw Mill Hill Rd., Torrington, CT

860-489-2719

Free tours during sugaring season and open year-round; call ahead. All kinds of treats available, from syrup and granulated maple sugar to sundry maple candies.

 

Sullivan Farm

140 Park Lane, New Milford, CT

860-354-0047

Call ahead (or see if steam’s rising from the sugarhouse) to check out Sullivan Farm’s sugarmaking process firsthand, drawing upon more than 1,600 maple trees.

 

Hilljack Sugar Shack

74 Wilson Rd, Litchfield, CT

860-482-6052

Father-and-son operation offering free tours during sugaring time.

 

Also worth noting: The Institute for American Indian Studies over in Washington, Connecticut—just a half-hour or so from Winvian Farm—will be holding its Annual Maple Sugaring Festival from 11 AM to 3 PM on March 4: a great event for learning about the history and significance of maple sugaring to indigenous people. Bonus: The Connecticut Valley Siberian Husky Club will be running dogsledding demos!

We hope you’ll come enjoy the rustic luxury of Winvian Farm for Connecticut’s very own sugaring season: a mighty sweet time to visit the Litchfield Hills, if you’ll pardon the pun…