Local sugar house producing a seasonal favorite

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Wed., Mar. 13, 2013
Bill Proulx of River’s Edge Sugar House boils down the sap and explains the maple sugaring process to his guests at the same time. Photos by Kitty LeShay.
Bill Proulx of River’s Edge Sugar House boils down the sap and explains the maple sugaring process to his guests at the same time. Photos by Kitty LeShay.

There are two events which are sure harbingers of spring: maple sugaring and the return of migratory birds. Bill Proulx, owner of River’s Edge Sugar House, is particularly attuned to these signals of spring. “I heard a woodcock last night. They come through in the spring and fall,” he said. He hears and observes the new arrivals as he works to make sap from maple trees into the delectable syrup that everyone loves.

During maple sugar season, Proulx puts in 18-hour work days tapping the trees, and collecting and boiling the sap. It’s a total immersion in producing one of the most delicious natural products. “It is a tremendous amount of work at this time of the year. We look forward to it coming, but we are relieved when it is over,” he said. His wife and children are also active participants in the process.

Maple sugaring is extremely weather-dependent. The optimum conditions are nights below freezing and days sunny and in the 40s. “This year has been better than last year,” Proulx said. “We would like to see some more nights in the 20s. That would extend the season. Once the bud of the tree swells, it gives a bitter flavor to the syrup.”

The light syrup has a mild taste and is considered the best for maple candy. “The more the sap is boiled, the darker the syrup,” Proulx explained. Most people prefer the dark amber because it has a stronger maple flavor. The Dark Amber Grade A syrup is very similar in taste to the Grade B. “It is great cooking syrup. We actually sell more Grade B than A. It is not inferior, just different,” he said.

Proulx explains the entire process when people stop in to watch the boiling down of about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Kelly Fantoli and her husband stopped in after visiting another sugar house in eastern Connecticut recently. “We would rather support local maple sugar producers instead of those out of state,” she said while sampling some syrup.

Most maple sugar producers welcome guests to their sugarhouses during production time. A brochure (A 2013 Guide to Connecticut Sugarhouses) can be obtained at most local libraries. The Proulx family will make an appointment for people wanting to stop in during the off-season, and of course the sugar house is stocked with syrup, candy, maple cream, maple jelly and their own honey. Call River’s Edge Sugar House at 860-429-1510.


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