Nope, it sure don’t. Neither does chatting with maple sugar makers about their production innovations, favorite uses of syrup and wildlife encounters in the sugarbush.
During the watery days leading up to Christmas, I took a drive to visit with Justin Torre of Becky’s Farm in Milton. My spirits soared when I hit the line where rain turned to snow, and I drove into my first winter wonderland of the season.
Justin and his father Harold began sugarin’ in 2004 with just over 4,000 taps. Harold and his wife Becky bought an old horse farm overlooking a mountain hollow and upon purchase, the former owners mentioned the sugarbush would make for a potentially successful maple operation. Harold, with no previous plans to start a career in maple sugaring (especially while entering his retirement years) couldn’t help but to reach out to his son whose love of the woodland country turned out to be just the ticket. This year with over 13,000 taps, the Torre’s run their own inventive and efficient steam evaporator, which can produce fancy grade syrup through the season. Justin operates 80% of the business, Harold works the rest with one other employee, and Becky peacefully oversees the farm of her name.
Becky’s Farm produces maple syrup in bulk, selling to commercial distributors like Butternut Mountain Farm. This year they plan to build a retail component into the mix, but that doesn’t mean folks aren’t experiencing Becky’s Farm syrup through some of the most well known packaged providers of quality Vermont maple syrup. Producers such as Butternut Mountain Farm and Jed’s Maple Products retail through specialty outlets like Cold Hollow Cider Maple Products, all a part of the successful distribution methods employed by Vermont maple sugar makers.
Big or small, all Vermont maple sugarin’ folk have many secrets to share, and this time of year it was fun to learn how they use their own products during the bundled up warmth of holiday gatherings and winter weekends.
“Maple sugar dumplings!” Steve Wheeler of Jed’s Maple Products exclaimed at once. “Our family loves boiled down syrup ladled over the handmade sweet dumplings.”
A Vermonter’s love of dough can’t get old with fresh maple syrup around. Justin Torre spreads fried bread dough real thin and pours hot butter and syrup over it. “It makes the kids jump to the ceiling and it’s so good, the adults aren’t far below.” When a little less intensity is desired, warm maple syrup in milk is a nighttime favorite. “I like it plopped in the coffee,” Harold adds with a grin.
Emma Marvin of Butternut Mountain Farm can rattle off recipes attributed to a family tradition in maple sugaring dating back to 1940. A few favorites include a handmade cranberry sauce of maple syrup, apple cider, and cranberries (which are now being grown in Vermont!). Maple sauce on baked brie is a charmer at potlucks and maple in turkey basting gives an earthy sweet glaze. “I personally love to taste the nuances of the fancy syrup and when poured over vanilla ice cream with peanuts, the flavors really pop,” Emma shares.
The folks at Becky’s Farm couldn’t agree more. “Maple syrup on vanilla ice cream is to die for!” Harold cheers. Justin’s wife has further explored the nutty maple flavor, “she boils down the syrup even more and tosses in the walnuts. They’re not sticky and are just so good.”
After snapping some shots around Becky’s Farm and riding the ATV through the sugarbush, I drove off, watching the snow disappear back into rain. But, when I got home, I used maple syrup in my favorite way—sweetening a tea of my hand grown and dried peppermint and spearmint leaves from the summer garden.