Monday, May 17, 2010

Vermont Maple Sugarworks Expedition

These days when I think of Vermont, one of the first things that comes to mind is that famous Vermont maple syrup. Perhaps because of my being born and raised in the South, I had never given much thought to an actual connection between the liquid I poured over my pancakes, and its origin from a tree somewhere "up north". It was not until my husband ( who was born in New England, and spent much of his childhood there ) mentioned to me that he had always wanted to visit a "maple syrup farm" that my curiosity was aroused as to what he was referring to. So let me just say, that if you are curious about the production of maple syrup, Vermont is THE place to go to satisfy that curiosity!! There are several locations throughout the state that demonstrate the origins of this very tasty product. The upper left photo in this collage shows me next to the gigantic syrup jug at Dakin Farm ( in Ferrisburgh, VT. The other two photos are from dioramas set up inside the New England Maple Museum ( in Rutland, VT. The upper photo shows the old-fashioned metal spout hammered into a suitable maple tree, with its design that allowed a metal bucket to be hung from it to collect the dripping sap. The lower photo shows the more modern collection methods where the redesigned "spouts" in several maple trees are connected together by plastic tubing, thus allowing for more efficient collection of larger quantities of sap. (It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, depending upon the sugar content in the sap.)

Another excellent place to learn about maple syrup processing is the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks ( in Montpelier, VT. The top two photos of this collage show the inside of the Morse "sugarhouse" that has been furnished with wooden church pews, so that the numerous visitors can sit and watch a video of how the sap is turned into syrup, using the huge (and very expensive) stainless steel evaporator shown in upper right photo. The middle photo shows a member of the Morse family who narrated the video when I was there. He was a very funny character, and had many humorous stories to relate about his family's "adventures in agriculture" in Vermont over the last 200 years. With a "tongue in cheek", wry grin, he told about how his father, after a particularly bad season milking the cows for their dairy operation, said he was finished with milking cows, and was going to start "milking the tourists" instead! So they specialized in producing maple syrup in a manner that visitors could watch, or even participate, in the process. With some success in the
theatrical aspects of maple sugaring, the family went on to open an expanded gift shop and food service facility. One of the Morse family members (aptly named "Burr") has written several books about their family, and the Morse family's experiences in farming in Vermont.

I never realized until I visited Vermont, the numerous ways that maple syrup could be used in food preparation---beyond the typical use on hot waffles, preferably poured from a lovely mapleleaf-shaped bottle like the one shown in upper left. The Morse Farm offers a very unique culinary experience called "sugar-on-snow". For this tasty treat, the Morse hostess provides you with a bowl of finely crushed ice (the "snow"), and a container of very hot maple syrup (the "sugar"). She then demonstrates how to slowly pour the hot syrup over the ice, to about the size of a quarter. Wait just a few seconds, then take a toothpick, and gather up the congealed syrup around it. Voila! You have just made yourself a maple sucker! It was great fun, and tasted terrific, too! Besides the waffle syrup and the sugar-on-snow, some additional products are shown in bottom photo of collage: Maple candies, maple cookies, maple crackers, maple salad dressings, maple BBQ sauce, maple mints, maple mustards, maple spreads, maple ice cream, etc., etc.!! I tasted many of these products, and all were delicious!

Although the sweet delights of maple syrup had not been discovered at the time that King David was writing the Psalms, the sweet delights of honey was a lure his culture was familiar with, and actively sought after. Perhaps that is why in Psalm 19:10b, David wrote that the ordinances of the Lord "are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb." I am praying that my "sweet tooth" will crave a hunger for God's word, as much as it craves honey and Vermont maple syrup! Miles of sweet, sticky smiles! Tricia------------------> Note: For more information on these and additional Vermont experiences, click on
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