An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Mar 28, 2014
06:26 AM
The Connecticut Table

How Sweet It Is: UConn Maple Syrup Shack to Host Open House

How Sweet It Is: UConn Maple Syrup Shack to Host Open House

UConn students have discovered something sweeter than a love shack.

And way more sappy.

Every winter students in the university’s Forestry and Wildlife Club tap over 100 sugar maple trees in the UConn Forest to make maple syrup. The sap from the trees is collected via long tubes (pictured below) and transferred to a small, wood, barnlike building known as The Sugar Shack. There the sap is boiled into maple syrup that is then offered for sale.

 

On Saturday, April 5, the UConn Sugar Shack (at the University’s Storrs campus off of Horsebarn Hill Road) will host an open house where students in the club will explain the maple making process to guests. The rain date for the open house is the following day, April 6.

See a YouTube Video about UConn’s Sugar Shack below: 

The club is tapping into a longstanding New England and Connecticut tradition. It’s a tradition that UConn students, along with many artisan maple makers in Connecticut are carrying on with pride.

Mark Rudnicki, a professor of ecology in UConn’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, is the advisor to the Forestry and Wildlife Club. He says that while making maple syrup, students “really get involved and engage with the forest itself.”

To make the syrup, sap from maple trees is harvested in late winter and early spring. For the sap to flow well, the weather has to be just right—you need nights where the temperature drops below freezing and warm sunny days where it rises above freezing.

After the sap is collected it has to be boiled down; it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup (see below for shots from that process at UConn's Sugar Shcak). At UConn, this time consuming and labor intensive process is accomplished in the Sugar Shack, with a wood powered stove specifically designed for the maple making process.

Coordinating class time with making maple syrup can be difficult says Joshua Tracy, the Forestry and Wildlife Club’s chief financial officer. 

“The season is all dependent on weather,” says the 22-year-old senior. “If the weather is perfect for a straight week, we have to be out there gathering the syrup and processing it. Sometimes we have to do homework in the sugar shack between stoking the fire and drawing off the syrup.”

Despite the hard work, club members enjoy the process.

“Sugary things always have a way of making people smile,” says Jenny Kilburn, 20,  the club’s president, and a senior at the University.

Last year the club produced about 30 gallons of maple syrup. The late arrival of spring has hurt the sap flow this year, but because the club tapped more trees this year than in previous years, members are expecting a similar yield to last year. Once it is produced, the maple syrup is sold on campus and at the sugar shack itself.

Rudnicki, the club’s advisor, says that at the open house, or when people stop by the sugar shack, the students are more than happy to explain the maple syrup making process.

“Making maple syrup is a famous social New England event. There’s lots of times for chit chatting during the boil, so students love to have visitors, and to talk about what’s going on,” he says. 

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

 

How Sweet It Is: UConn Maple Syrup Shack to Host Open House

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