By Scott Gargan
Each year, around the end of February, the maples at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center give the gift of sugary sap.
But in 2013, they have been particularly sweet.
“Last week, we collected 1,400 gallons,” said Will Kies, SM&NC director of education. “That’s exceptional.”
The bounty of golden-hued goo is more than enough raw material for the syrup, candies and other treats that visitors will enjoy at SM&NC’s Maple Sugar Festival Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3.
Now in its 14th year, the mouthwatering winter celebration is a great way to indulge your sweet tooth, with a spread of maple-sugar goodies available for tasting and purchase throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, visitors can sample — and vote on — dishes created by local chefs in an “Iron Chef”-inspired cook-off sponsored by First County Bank. Given past winners — including maple-glazed popcorn with prosciutto and maple-marinated pork sliders — you can probably guess what the “secret ingredient” is going to be.
“The chefs have been creative and food has always been tasty,” said Karen Kelly, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of First County Bank. “It adds another layer of excitement to the festivities.”
The following day, visitors can enjoy a pancake brunch, with stacks short and long drenched in fresh maple syrup.
Besides having enough to eat, there will be plenty to learn about, too. Before sampling the toothsome bounty, follow the sweet smells wafting across Hecksher Farm to the little red sugar house. There, you can see how maple syrup is made.
“People are intrigued by how this process works,” Kies said.
That process began last week when Kies and SM&NC volunteers drilled holes and inserted metal spouts into trees. Buckets were then hung to capture the dripping sap, which was then boiled down into syrup and bottled for consumption.
Kies, who will offer maple sugaring demonstrations throughout the weekend, gave two reasons for interest in the process: Curiosity about where our food comes from and pride in a uniquely northeastern tradition.
“Its really only produced in Northeast,” Kies said. “It’s not a worldwide tradition.”
Visitors should also take pride in the mighty maples dotting the SM&NC property. They have been very generous with their sap this year, and your taste buds will be thankful for it.
More maple fun:
Maple Festival with the Friends at Ansonia Nature CenterAnsonia Nature Center — A pancake breakfast with real maple syrup, sausages, juice, coffee and tea from 8 to 10 a.m., followed by a maple bake sale all day (or until the goodies are gone), crafts, live animals and tree-tapping demonstrations. 10 Deerfield Lane, Ansonia. Saturday, March 2, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 203-736-1053, www.ansonianaturecenter.org.
Scott.email@example.com; 203-964-2238; http://twitter.com/scottgar
Stamford Museum and Nature Center, 39 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford. Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $10, $5 for members. 203-322-1646, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.stamfordmuseum.org.