Even though I don’t actually like traditional pancakes that much, there are few things that conjure the idea of ‘hominess’ more than the thought of a heaping stack of pancakes served with maple syrup. Unless you are of the Aunt Jemima crowd (and why would you be?!), then that maple syrup you are thinking of probably came from Vermont. Why? Because Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States. Naturally, my recent visit to Vermont demanded we visit a sugarbush. We went to Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks in Montpelier.
Before going into the main shop, we poked around in the sugar shack.
The syrup production is done in the sugar shack by boiling sap down to syrup. There are different grades of syrup, and the various flavors are achieved through varying boiling times. Look at the difference between the grades of syrup:
After poking around the sugar shack, we headed into the main shop.There was maple everything! Maple syrup, maple cotton candy, maple fudge, maple t-shirts, maple candy – the list goes on.
I had a sample of maple candy and it was so sweet the little bite made my head spin:
What we really came for though was the sugar on snow. I had never heard of sugar on snow before I started coming to Vermont. For those who, like me, weren’t educated as children about sugar on snow, it is an edible Vermont tradition during the maple syrup harvest season. There are several components to the treat. First, you need the snow:
This is really just shaved ice. Then, you need the maple syrup:
You also get condiments – a pickle and a cider donut:
Once all the pieces are assembled, you pour the syrup over the ‘snow’:
This is when the magic happens. The syrup is warm and the snow is cold – obviously – and the varying temperatures cause the syrup to thicken into a taffy-like form:
You then eat the maple ‘taffy’ off the fork. As you might imagine, this is INCREDIBLY sweet. Hence, the pickle and cider donut. You are supposed to eat them to balance the sweetness of enjoying your sugar on snow.
I wasn’t up for the sugar overload though, so I just snagged a couple bites of Noah’s and opted to order a different Vermont culinary treat – a creemee.
Really, this is just soft-serve ice cream, but since they call it by a different name (creemee) it almost seems like something different. I got a swirl of chocolate and – of course – maple. It was delicious!
In addition to maple syrup, Vermont is also known for cheese. We visited Cabot Creamery for a tour where we learned about how they make the cheese.
Cabot is a co-op, so it’s owned by the farmers who supply the milk which is pretty neat. While we waited for our tour to start, we enjoyed some samples and looked around the gift shop:
To start the tour, we watched a brief video about the history of Cabot Creamery, the cooperative, and their production:
Then, we walked through the hallways of the factory where we could look through big windows into the rooms where the cheese was being made right before our eyes! These are the huge bins that the milk is put in and churned:
Eventually, the whey will separate from the curd. The whey is drained and then the curds are churned until they’re ready to be packed into cheese. The curds go into a machine and don’t reappear until they are miraculously turned into blocks of…
They also have labs where they do quality control, test shelf life, and try to improve their products:
Very cool! If you are going to Vermont, I would say prioritize going to a sugarbush, and if there’s time also check out a cheese house – it’s a unique experience and fun to see how everything is done. And don’t forget….