Welcome to Wenzel's Connecticut Maple Syrup Homepage!
In the rolling hills of rural Hebron, Connecticut, Ron and Joyce Wenzel work with mother nature to produce one of the sweetest natural treats around...real Maple Syrup. The idea of concentrating sap was originally learned from native Americans, and although Vermont and even Canada are well known for this product, it has been said, that the further south the sugar maple trees are located, the better the syrup will be...so Ron and Joyce consider themselves kind of lucky!
The Story of the Wenzel Sugarhouse and Real Connecticut, Pure Maple Syrup.
A young fan in front of The Wenzel Sugarhouse.
Maple trees at work in the spring. Trees produce the best sap for making syrup when nights are cold and below freezing and days are warm...in Connecticut, that's early March.
"Spiles", which go through the bark and just into the sap carrying layer are installed in local sugar maple trees. Old trees as well as young trees produce usable sap, but a tree must be at least 12" in diameter before it is tapped. The sap is collected in buckets which are in turn periodically collected. It doesn't hurt the tree...Ron certainly wouldn't want to do that...where would he get the raw product next year?
Some big syrup producers even have tubing from the trees right to their reducing operations for collecting tens of thousands of gallons of sap. In a small operation like Ron's, where he turns less than 3000 gallons of sap into only about 65 gallons of syrup each year, he first collects it in pails at the trees, then gathers it in larger plastic barrels and finally transfers it into two holding tanks next to (and uphill from) the sugar house.
|The tree has done its part, shared a small amount of its sap, and Ron has collected it. Now it's Ron's turn to go to work. He's laid in a good stock of firewood...and carefully cleaned all the equipment...so he's ready to cook. The sap is let into the evaporator, and heat from the firebox beneath slowly begins the simple yet slightly magical process of concentrating the flavors.|
|Ron looks a bit like a railroad man of long ago, loading wood and stoking the firebox. Steam is everywhere, gently rising from the evaporator to fill the sugar house with a wonderful, sweet aroma. It's only spring outside the wooden sugarhouse Ron built about 10 years ago, so it's still gray and chilly and he welcomes the warmth from the firebox and evaporator. As soon as it escapes the venting windows in the roof, the steam instantly turns into a big billowing white cloud. In the kitchen of their house, Joyce looks out in the direction of the little hill in the back yard on which the sugarhouse is situated, sees the cloud and immediately knows what Ron is up to.|
As the sap makes its leisurely 24 foot long, serpentine journey through the evaporator, Ron performs several tests to check on the process which is slowly turning the sap into syrup. There's no rush here! In order to evaporate away the water in the sap (some 97%), the leisurely, strictly gravity powered journey will take about two hours...but his patience will be rewarded.
Ron explains the whole process to visitors which have come to the Wenzel Sugarhouse as part of the annual Hebron Maple Fest weekend celebration. After all questions have been answered, young and old visitors get to try a sweet sample treat crackers with maple dip *.
|Each year, winter snowfall, spring temperature swings, and all the other subtle little factors which influence the final flavor of the syrup - some of which are still nature's secrets - are different. The amount of sap produced by the trees can also vary greatly from year to year. Ron inspects syrup samples for color and wonders how this year's batch will turn out. He always looks forward to the first taste test of the year!|
|The sugars and flavors of the syrup are all in solution (66.9% sugar content to be exact...with zero fat!), but a small amount of impurities remain in suspension, slightly clouding the syrup. It's certainly sterile and we could enjoy it like this, but Ron will filter the syrup to get a perfectly clear, amber color.|
A display on the wall of Ron's sugarhouse compares the actual maple syrup content of his syrup to some commercial syrups...they're amazingly and disappointingly low. A taste test would sure reveal what everyone prefers: Real Connecticut, Pure Maple Syrup!
It has been a lot of work, but Ron and Joyce enjoy it...and the reward speaks (and tastes) for itself!
* Joyce's Recipe
for Maple Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup maple sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fruit as desired
Combine all ingredients (except fruit) in bowl and mix until smooth. Chill in refrigerator. Spoon into serving bowl. Serve with apple slices, pineapple, banana, peaches or pears. Can also serve on crackers.
Joyce's Recipe for Maple Pudding cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups real Connecticut, pure maple syrup
3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
Whipped cream or ice cream
Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk and nuts. Pour into a greased 8 - inch square pan. Combine the maple syrup, water, and butter in a small saucepan. Heat just until the butter melts. Pour the warm sauce over the cake batter, but do not stir!
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream. This recipe serves 6.
A pudding-like sauce forms as the cake bakes.
To arrange for them to
send you some Real Connecticut, Pure Maple Syrup,
contact Ron and Joyce:
Phone: 860 - 649 - 0841
email: rlwenzel[at]snet.net ( replace [at] with an @ )
Thanks for visiting!
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