Sugaring season at Connecticut College
Every year in late winter or early spring, when the air temperature rises above freezing during the day but dips back down below freezing at night, Connecticut College grounds supervisor Jim Luce taps a half dozen sugar maple trees on campus. One or twice a day, he collects the sap in plastic buckets, bringing it back to his house where he will boil it down to maple syrup for himself and several of the college's student groups. More than the end product, what Luce treasures about his small sugaring operation is the lasting relationships he's built with students in the 28 years he's been at the college.
Luce says "If you know how to boil water, you can make maple syrup." While collecting sap on Wednesday afternoon, he demonstrated how to identify a sugar maple by looking at the buds. Maple buds grow opposite one another on the branch, and sugar maple buds are pointed like a church steeple. Luce recommends using a 7/16-inch drill bit to make a hole about three to four feet from the ground on the south-facing side of a tree. The hole should be about an inch and a half deep.
Luce uses metal spiles, or spouts, and buckets to collect the sap. Boiling is a three-step process. After pouring the sap through a strainer, he starts by boiling the sap in pots on top of his wood stove before moving it to a pan on an outdoor gas grill. Part three of the boiling process takes place in a pot on the kitchen stove. The final step is to filter out the remaining sediments before pouring it on your pancakes or sipping it straight.