Maple syrup and Vermont go together like, well, maple syrup and pancakes! Forty years are required to grow a sugar maple tree large enough to tap. A tree ten inches (25 cm) in diameter is considered minimum trappable size for one tap. A grove of sugar maples is called a sugar bush or sometimes a maple orchard. It takes 4-5 taps to produce enough maple sap (40 gallons – 150 liters) to produce one gallon of syrup. And right now the sap is being boiled down to make the world famous Vermont Maple Syrup with Maple Festivals happening here in the Mad River Valley as well as across the state.
Vermont has strict Maple Laws governing the production of maple syrup to ensure that you get the highest quality maple syrup. For such a deliciously complex flavor, maple syrup is surprisingly simple to make. Seeping spring-time sap from a maple tree is collected and boiled down to a golden syrup. Nothing is added in the entire process and only water is removed, leaving one of nature’s remarkably culinary gifts.
For years, Vermont maple syrup has been divided into one of four grades based on color and flavor. As consumer preference has changed over the past century, so too has the grading system evolved to provide a more accurate description based on consumer preference. The names of each grade, however, did not necessarily provide a meaningful description of the syrup. With the old system of grading, Grade B was often mistaken for being a lower quality than Grade A, when in fact the quality was just the same it just had a stronger taste.
Beginning in 2014, Vermont maple syrup producers started using a newly developed “Vermont” grading system that provides a better description of each grade, or class, of syrup. Each grade will state a color and a flavor descriptor:
Some interesting facts about this most luscious sweetener:
*it contains an abundant amount of naturally ocurring minerals such as calcium, manganese, potassium and magnesium
* it is a natural source of beneficial antioxidants
* it is more nutritious than all other common sweeteners
* it contains one of the lowest calorie levels
* it has been shown to have healthy glycemic qualities
* maple syrup and maple sugar can be used in all your cooking and baking
All 4 grades of maple syrup are of equal quality, density and sugar content so it’s just a matter of personal preference – what’s yours?
The Native Peoples of the Northeast were the first to discover that the sap of the maple tree could be boiled down to provide an addition to their diet. Vermont produces about 3.5 million gallons (about 13 million liters) of maple syrup annually, providing 40% of the US supply. Several other states produce maple syrup on a smaller scale. In comparison, Canada produces about 10 million gallons ( about 38 million liters) per year supplying the domestic market and providing about 75% of the world supply.
All that luscious maple syrup would look after a Paul Bunyan sized stack of pancakes with some maple syrup left over for your pancakes!
For more information check out vermontmaple.org, and to experience Maple Sugaring first hand come to the Mad River Valley Maple Festival weekend on April 1st through 3rd 2016—we have a special package just for you!
Today on our Sap-bucket list we highlight the Stetson Hollow Trail and Falls. A perfect activity for a hot summer day in the Mad River Valley, the tree shaded Stetson Hollow trail follows along the Stetson Brook and is an easy 1.2 mile hike. Take your camera – there is some gorgeous scenery on this 45 minutes hike to the falls.
At the head of the trail you will be treated with the sight of a 40 foot ‘horsetail’ falls. A seasonal falls, spring and fall are when the water is most abundant however during other times of year this is still a lovely trail. While the water is cooling, swimming is not permitted.
Heading south from the town of Warren, Stetson Hollow Road is on the right 2.2 miles from the Lincoln Gap/Rte 100 intersection. It looks like you are driving into someone’s yard and actually you are (please respect their privacy) but keep going, you’re on the right track to the start of the trail and a bit farther along is space for parking.
Have fun and keep cool.
From guest Susie:
My husband and I celebrated our 30th Anniversary with a 3 week New England vacation in October. It had always been my dream to see the fall foliage and experience the charm of New England and we were not disappointed.
We saw many beautiful areas but when people ask me what was my favorite part, I do not hesitate to respond. West Hill House in Warren, Vermont was tops! Our expectations were exceeded in every way. Peter and Susan made us feel like family the moment we arrived. We even did laundry in the newly renovated barn.
Their home is gorgeous, spacious and so relaxing. There are large areas to sit and enjoy quiet time or visit with wonderful guests. The grounds are stunning and the fall colors were absolutely vivid. We loved taking early morning walks and photographing all the beauty that we were surrounded by. My husband thought the golf course would be fun to try sometime.
Susan’s breakfasts were absolutely delicious and Peter spent a good amount of time mapping out drive routes for our visit. The surrounding area offers so many wonderful restaurants and things to see and do. We saw covered bridges and had fun at the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour. We ate one night at American Flatbread and waiting is half the fun. There are bonfires outside and people just enjoying each other. The food was made with organic ingredients and was fresh and yummy.
My only regret is that 2 nights was not nearly long enough and I was sad when it was time for us to leave. I keep telling my husband that for any occasion he can give me a gift certificate to West Hill House! I hope we can come back soon and I thank Peter and Susan for truly making our dream a reality.
Editor: An addition to Susie’s comments is that she is an exceptional photographer. She shared some of her photos with us and the one shown is a beautiful view of our barn from behind the Beaver Pond.
“Susan and Peter are the perfect hosts, creating an atmosphere where guests wished to linger over morning coffee or gather in the comfortable great room to share a glass of wine.”
Ruth sent us a number of her photos. We show here her photo of the new location this year for our hammock, beside one of our ponds. It proved to be very popular on sunny afternoons!
Today is stunningly beautiful. Blue sky, a few wispy clouds, a nice gentle breeze and about 79’F. This morning before I started breakfast for our guests I took a few minutes to sit on the front porch with a cup of tea. I gazed over the beautiful orange lilies and enjoyed the song birds, the sound of the busy woodpecker, the wind through the leaves and the antics of a couple of chipmunks chasing each other up and down one of the huge sugar maples in the front yard.
What a great way to start the day and what better place to relax and spend summer days than right here. The hammock is waiting for you…
West Hill House is teaming with Clearwater Sports to offer an invigorating snowshoe tour through a beautiful Beech, Hemlock and Maple forest to learn what a real Sugarbush is (no not the ski area). What a great combination of snowshoeing and maple sugaring! You will be guided from the beginning of the sugaring operation at the tap lines and work your way down the hill to the final destination – The Sugaring Shack. There you will learn about the final steps required to change sap into Maple Syrup. (Can you believe it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup)
Enjoy a sample of the day’s fresh product and learn about the different grades of syrup from this important Vermont industry. You will appreciate your waffles and pancakes all that much more with the knowledge gained from this fun and educational tour. Maple Syrup will be available to buy after the tour – or back at West Hill House.
Available daily 3:00- 5:30PM and must be reserved ahead – subject to availability. $55 per person
Special offer: Stay with us 3 nights during the sugaring season and we will INCLUDE this great outing for two at no extra charge. (Can’t be combined with any other offer.)
We never cease to be amazed by the beauty that surrounds us here at West Hill House. The sun through the bare branches of the trees, the clouds that float overhead, the stately pines that blow in the wind, the numerous birds and small animals that scurry around preparing for winter, the list goes on. Yesterday we took this photo through the Sun Room window. While we were having lunch two beautiful deer appeared in our garden not more than 25 feet from us. One ambled over to our pond while the other stopped for a photo op. These two are helping us with the fall clean-up as windfall apples are throughout the garden and the deer seem to enjoy making a stop in our garden for their fruit. It is breath-taking to see these wonderful creatures up close!
- Bring on the leaves!
What better way to celebrate autumn than to frolic in fall foliage! With huge maple trees surrounding the B&B we get our fair share of leaves on the ground. Many thanks to the couples who took us up on our “Leak Raving” special and joined us in getting our lawns and gardens ready for winter. All our autumn leaves were raked and deposited in the compost and none too soon!
Yesterday morning we awoke to just enough snow on the ground to remind us that the wonderful winter days are just around the corner. It’s not to early to start thinking about reserving a room with us for your winter vacation. Relaxation starts at West Hill House in the Mad River Valley in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
What happens when the spring weather brings several days of rain to Vermont? Sure, the grass and dandelions grow like, well, like weeds! The gardens get a good watering so the flowers are happy. The creeks and rivers race downstream tumbling crazily over and around the rocks. And yes it’s true some of the roads do get a bit muddy. But stop for a moment and think about the word “Vermont” – from the French, vert = green mont=mountain and that is exactly what happens when it rains, the mountains get green. I don’t know how many shades of green the human eye is capable of seeing but I’ll bet they can all be seen from our front porch. The greens are amazingly intense and vibrant! The trees, decked out in their new spring finery, display everything from the palest of greens which look almost white, to the very dark and bold forest greens. Between rain showers the sun peeks through the clouds making the leaves glisten like they’ve been sprinkled with the finest crystals and the lilac blossoms shimmer silvery-lavender. Spring is a glorious season in the Mad River Valley of Vermont, a photographers dream, the chance to capture on film, a rain bathed leaf or an open flower blossom cupping droplets of water. Come visit vert mont, up close and personal through the lens of your camera. West Hill House B&B is a great place for a home base!