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Maple Madness


March may be a time for brackets and college basketball for most of the nation, however, in Vermont it’s all about the maple. Sugar houses all around Vermont are filled with smoke and the faint scent of sap.

Over the weekend I was determined to experience some Maple Madness. Mud boots and flannel on, I loaded into the truck and began the journey. Without a true destination in mind we, quite literally, took the road less traveled. When approaching a fork in the road, we picked the muddiest, and when trying to decide up the mountain or down, the sap buckets hitched onto old maple trees led us on the right path.

Following the tell-tale signs, smoke in the distance and sap buckets on trees, we found Whitney’s Sugar House. A welcoming sign indicated it was an “open house weekend” so eagerly we went inside. Mr. Whitney (pictured here) was heating up his evaporator and a slow stream of smoke danced up to the chimney of the sugar house.

Displayed in one of the small picturesque windows were small samples of what looked like every grade of syrup he had ever made. In Vermont, there is a defined set of standards for grading the syrup. These standards primarily are based upon the hue of the syrup when held up to the sunlight as well as their flavor and thickness. The USDA syrup grading system uses five different maple syrup grades. Some prefer the light color and taste of Grade A Light Amber others enjoy the deep amber. The syrup grading system include: Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber and two darker syrups, Grade B maple syrup and Commercial Grade. As the syrups get darker in color, they have a stronger maple flavor.

Up the driveway from the Whitney’s sugar house was a garage re-purposed as a storefront. Carla Whitney takes the syrup that her husband makes and bakes delicious maple treats. From maple candies to cookies to toasted maple nuts, “it is all about the maple” she says. The couple also makes hard-goods out of maple wood: candle holders, ice cream spoons, pens and wine stoppers.

On the way home, we stopped at another sugar house in Panton, VT just down the road from BHC. With another gallon on board, we headed home to enjoy real, Vermont maple syrup the way true Vermonters do, on waffles.

Here is my family’s favorite waffle recipe! Try it and let me know!

William’s Waffles

Mix together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients, stirring the oil and berries (if adding berries) in last. Don’t overstir. Preheat your waffle iron and butter it lightly. Cook until waffle iron stops steaming and waffles are golden brown {which is usually 4 to 7 minutes). Pour this mixture in the iron and start your pile of delicious, browned waffles. Add a thick slice of butter and drizzle maple syrup as desired.

{ 1 and 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour}
{1/2 cup white flour}
{3 teaspoons baking powder}
{1/4 teaspoon salt}
{2 eggs, beaten}
{1 and 1/4 cups milk}
{1/2 cup sunflower oil}
{Blueberry Waffles: add 2 cups blueberries}
{Poppy Seed Waffles: add 2 tablespoons poppy seeds with the oil}

Maple Syrup

Happy Maple Madness!