If there’s a quintessential New England odor, it just may be found inside Leonard’s Sugar House in North Canton.
As Ray Leonard adds logs to a wood-fired evaporator, the machine removes the water from maple sap. The wood smoke and maple vapors produce a pleasant aroma.
Leonard and Lori George are in the midst of the maple sugar season as cold nights and mild days mean the sap is flowing.
As long as it lasts, the two spend several hours daily producing syrup and other maple products.
Leonard uses a tubing system and gravity to collect sap from approximately 310 taps, each of which can produce 2 to 3 gallons a day.
The sap flows into a tank, which he then transfers to a larger holding tank outside the sugar shack at his parents’ home at 555 Cherry Brook Road. Production varies but it takes about 45 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Inside the sugar shack, the evaporator separates the water from sap. As the machine does its work, Leonard adds wood, keeps an eye on gauges and as the sap makes its way through the chambers in the machine. Once the syrup reaches the front chamber and heats to 219 degrees, Leonard pours it to a bucket.
From there, it's filtered through another container and later poured into third tank and reheated to 180 degrees.
While it's still hot, George pumps the syrup into plastic containers, screws on a cap and then turns the bottle upside down, allowing the heat to "vacuum" the seal in the cap. She then labels the syrup, the color of which darkens as the season progresses.
It’s a short season, roughly six weeks long. Leonard averages 60 gallon of syrup a year and has produced as much as 100. The syrup is sold all year round directly from the sugar shack.
Leonard said that while 2012 was a very poor year, this has been a great year for production.
He began the operation in 1984 and has been maple sugaring since he was 8 years old, learning much from his neighbor Hugh Brown.
“It’s exciting,” Leonard said. “Every year I learn something new.”
The business is part of the Maple Syrup Producers of Connecticut but with his costs and times, Leonard said it’s almost more of a hobby than anything.
Leonard, who also runs Leonard's Tree and Lawn Service, also enjoys passing on his love of maple sugaring and offers demonstrations for groups and invites the public to come watch the process.
"I enjoy having people come out," Leonard said.
The business is open every day. Visitors can just stop by but are also welcome to call first if they want to make sure someone is around. The syrup and other products are sold directly on the farm.
Leonard’s Sugar House
- 555 Cherry Brook Road
- Canton CT 06059
- (860) 693-8514, (860) 712-9652