Story and Photos: TAMRA BOLTON | Sept.-Oct. 2017
There’s nothing more delicious than the golden goodness of maple syrup
During cool autumn days our thoughts often turn to sweet, authentic maple syrup. Between 1,800 and 3,000 producers make maple syrup in Vermont, according to the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association. This makes syrup one of the leading contributors to the state economy.
In Woodstock, Vermont, the Luce Family at Sugarbush Farm has been making maple syrup and cheese for more than 70 years. They say it takes approximately four maple trees, at least 40 years old, to yield enough sap in six weeks to produce one gallon of maple syrup.
Add in the lengthy time it takes to tap the trees; collect the sap; cut, split and dry the wood to use in the syrup-making process; stoke the fires under the cooking pans; and pack the finished syrup into containers and it’s no wonder pure Vermont maple syrup is expensive.
It’s also some of the best syrup in the world.
First discovered by the Native Americans of the area, sugar maple trees produce a watery sap that when boiled down makes one of the “healthiest, most natural sweeteners” in the world, according to the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association.
The nutritional value of maple syrup has been the focus of many studies over the years and researchers have discovered that the golden stuff has a much higher antioxidant value than originally thought.
It also contains calcium, , potassium and magnesium. Many cooks are trading in the white sugar in their recipes for the more flavorful, natural maple sugar.
Everywhere you go in the tiny state, you can find a farm producing the sweet stuff or some maple-related products. I’ve listed four of my favorite places to visit and buy maple syrup.
GREAT PLACES TO GET SYRUP FROM THE FARM
1. Sugarbush Farm, Woodstock: You not only can buy the sweet stuff, but also can sample the 14 varieties of cheeses they make right on the farm.
2. Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Montpelier: One of Vermont’s oldest maple places, it makes a delicious maple creemee (soft ice cream-like product) that was named by Food and Wine magazine as one of the “75 Best Food Buys in America.”
3. Hartshorn’s Maple Sugar House and Farm Stand, Waitsfield: This award-winning producer of maple syrup also grows organic vegetables and fruits. Owners Dave and Amy have been featured in Farm & Ranch Living and other magazines for their commitment to organic farming and community participation through educational events and festivals.
This farm had some of the most affordable syrup I came across. Dave is happy to answer your questions and while you’re there, take time to look over his many award-winning certificates and ribbons that adorn the walls of the stand.
Look for the huge metal horse sculpture and their distinctive red-and-white sign.
There are literally hundreds of places in Vermont to buy maple syrup and maple products and if you can’t visit in person, most have online sites that sell their products.
4. Mom & Pop’s World’s Best Pure Vermont Maple Syrup (a roadside tradition for many years, located just 3.5 miles off of Route 100 on Vermont 73).
The Gendron Family has been making maple syrup since 1918 and they will make you glad you stopped by.
With their friendly banter and beautiful array of maple products, visiting with the Gendrons is a real treat. Don’t be surprised if they offer you a free sample of mom’s melt-in your- mouth maple candy. It is fabulous!
MAPLE SYRUP SPREAD
One of my favorite ways to enjoy maple syrup is on whole grain pancakes, but you can also drizzle it into vanilla ice cream for a delicious shake or use it to make maple butter for muffins, biscuits, bagels, hot rolls,and toast. Yum! I’ve included the easy recipe below, courtesy of Sugarbush Farms.
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) real butter
- Cook maple syrup in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, without stirring until it reaches soft ball stage (234 degrees on a candy thermometer). Stir in butter. Pour mixture into a deep bowl and beat with an electric mixer until thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Enjoy!
Tamra Bolton is an East Texas freelance writer who travels throughout the United States looking for new experiences and great food.
CLOSER TO HOME: HERITAGE SYRUP FESTIVAL
The annual Heritage Syrup Festival will take place Nov. 12 in Henderson, Texas.
The highlight of the only folk life festival in East Texas is the syrup making demonstration on the Depot Museum grounds. Experienced syrup makers operate the museum’s antique mulepowered equipment to produce old-fashioned cane syrup.
While the syrup cooks, other folk artists demonstrate the techniques of lace making, rope making, basket making, blacksmithing, wood carving, quilting and other old-time survival skills.
From the museum, the festivities spread six blocks to Heritage Square in the Downtown National Register Historic District. Visitors can browse among 150 booths of handcrafted arts and crafts items, sample East Texas cuisine and enjoy the musical entertainment on stage.