Open Maple Sugarhouse
March 25 and 26, from 10:00 on each day. Sugar on snow, Rebecca's raised doughnuts with hot, fresh syrup, hot dogs boiled in sap.
Tours of the sugarhouse. All welcome. 802-272-6249 to see if we're boiling.
Maple Specialty Food Contest!
Calling All Vermonters!
In conjunction with the Governor’s Tree Tapping, February 28, 2017, at Silloway Maple in Randolph Center, there will be a maple specialty foods contest open to Vermont residents. We hope to see how cooks from all around Vermont use our favorite agricultural product, maple syrup, in their cooking. We are excited to have a panel of students from The New England Culinary Institute coming down from Montpelier to do the judging.
All entries must have been produced in Vermont, and contain pure Vermont maple syrup. Entries may be sweet or savory. Please attach your recipe. There will be three categories: Business, Adult over 18, and Child.
Entry container must not have any identification or label. Please bring your entry in a disposable container, or plan to take it home following the contest.
All products must be delivered to the Silloway Maple sugarhouse at 1303 Boudro Road between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 28. Please call 272-6249 to arrange for drop off at an earlier time.
Judging will begin at 10:00. Winners will be announced when judging is finished, and the winner will receive one gallon of maple syrup, grade of their choice.
Contest winners may be interviewed, and winning recipes will be published.
Thank you for showcasing how Vermont’s sweetest product can be used!
Prominence of Maple: 20 points
Appearance: 10 points
Flavor: 20 points
Texture: 10 points
Presentation: 10 points
Uniformity of size: 10 points
Overall Quality: 20 points
Total: 100 Points
Getting Ready For the Show
Excerpt from A Farm Wife’s Journal
When I was 27, I married a dairy farmer and moved to northern Vermont. Dan leased a farm there, and we lived up back of the barn in a trailer.
The winters in Greensboro are cold and snowy, but I was young enough to be tickled at the sight of a “frostline” about two feet high along the inside of the hall in the trailer. By January, though, I was ready for a break from winter.
The annual Farm Show in Barre provides that break for many folks in Vermont, and I was no exception. Early in January, I began urging my new husband to pick out a bale of his nicest hay, and coaxing him to enter a jar of haylege. I began to go through the recipes and make preparations to enter the home products division. I come from a family with a good-sized sugarbush, and I wanted to try a maple class.
The Agriview came in the mail with listings of classes, and there it was: “Maple Specialty”. I tried to think of something different, and came up with my Maple Popcorn Balls. We were pretty isolated in Greensboro, so I found time between chores to practice my specialties that week before the Farm Show. My popcorn balls were tasty, but did not stick together at all. I renamed them Sugared Popcorn, and we enjoyed it after supper.
Next, I made up a batch of Maple Maltex Bread, and left it rising while I did part of the milking. When I ran up from the barn to check it, the dough had flowed over the bowl onto the top of the wood stove. The finished product was very good, but I decided bread was too time-consuming for a day that would be hurried.
The entries were due at the show on Monday, so I planned to spend Sunday cooking. But rare company drove up right after morning chores, and that was the end of my Sunday cooking. By the time I was done chores and supper, I was asleep on the couch. I set my alarm for four o’clock Monday morning, and figured to get a good start by milking time.
I had dreamed up a recipe called Vermont Maple Cheesecake. I needed hard maple sugar to grate for a topping, so first thing after getting the fire going, I set a pan of syrup to boil on the stove. Then I prepared the cheesecake and got it into the oven. Such elaborate fussing I did to get my graham cracker crust edges even! I doubled all the ingredients so as to have one cheesecake left at home to sample. The edges of this one were ragged, and clearly done in a hurry. As I rushed to find some index cards to supply my recipes on, over my pan of syrup boiled. I mopped burning syrup off the stovetop, and I could just hear my dad advising, “Don’t turn your back on boiling syrup!”
I raced against the clock, now peeling potatoes for my Potato Doughnut recipe. So much rushing between the house and barn, to stir the cooling maple sugar, feed the bawling calves, grab the cheesecakes from the oven, grain the cows, heat the lard for frying, hay the heifers.
Amanda, a fresh cow, was still off-feed even after our treatments of dextrose and glycol, so I called the vet. Dan had a dentist appointment, and off he went after breakfast, leaving me to a quiet morning of cooking, doing after breakfast chores, and talking with the vet. Our trailer was out of sight of the barn, and it was a constant inconvenience to guess whether the dog’s barking meant the arrival of the vet, a salesman, or just a passing car. I sure didn’t want to miss the vet, so at each barking spell I hauled my boots on and ran down to the barn.
Poor Amanda was gaunt and bony after three days of only picking at her hay. Her hair was dull and her eyes depressed. The vet dosed her up, and as he was giving her a bottle, we discussed ways of tempting her to eat. Molasses? Beet pulp? Coarse hay, apples, potatoes?
Had I ever tried transplanting a cud? His advice was to sidle up to another cow, quietly insert my hand into her mouth, take her cud, and plant it far back in Amanda’s mouth. That well-chewed cud would be teeming with bacteria, and stimulate Amanda’s rumen to work.
I finished chores and hesitated, considering wanting to help Amanda against the flying clock. It was nearing noon, and my cheesecake was chilling. I had selected six regular-looking doughnuts and had given up on the casserole class for lack of a disposable pan for my entry.
I eyed Polly, a quiet, older cow with a placid disposition. A likely suspect for a cud donation. The vet had warned me that any disturbance would prompt a cow to swallow, thwarting me.
No time to be thwarted! I edged slowly along, humming. Beside Polly, I slid my arm along her nose, and poked my hand between her jaws. Success! A good-sized, smelly wet chaw. Would Amanda swallow it, or manage to spit it out? I used the same technique, slipping it into her mouth, holding her jaws together, and stroking her long throat. Success! I felt the mass go down.
As I hurried from the barn, once more up the hill to the house, an idea finally came to me for a casserole entry. Here was the main dish, featuring Vermont cheese, that would require no real container. Pizza! And just time to prepare it, leaving enough for Dan’s dinner.
I cut a cardboard circle, then formed a “pan” of aluminum foil on it. In no time my pizzas were baking, the cheese melting deliciously. I was in a state of high, tense spirits, awaiting Dan’s arrival home with the truck so I could get to Barre with my entries before the deadline, and back again for milking.
I flew around our tiny kitchen desperately trying to fit everything into a cardboard box to balance for the trip. I had to bite my tongue to keep from snapping as Dan carelessly spun my little pizza on one hand, trying to help me load up.
What a relief to march up the Barre auditorium steps, and deposit my entries on the front table. People bustled in and out, with armloads of potatoes, apples, hay, and maple syrup. Angel food cakes and high loaves of homemade bread were carried in with careful pride. What a wonderful taste of harvest time, right in the depth of winter!
On Tuesday Dan and I went off to see the Farm Show together, attend the Maple Sugarmaker’s banquet, and visit with friends and relatives. I was so pleased to find “Excellent” stamped on my doughnut and pizza entry cards, and left determined to try once again in the maple specialty class the next year. The judges had noted that my cheesecake was not strong enough of maple flavor.
Amanda was chewing her (or was it Polly’s?) cud when we got home.
Life in the Sugarwoods
My entire life has been spent in the sugarwoods, one way or another. As a child, riding always on the gathering sled or trailer, hanging on for dear life, mittens soaked with sap slopping up out of the filter, and hours in the sugarhouse while Dad boiled. He gave us tastes of hot, fresh syrup, we always had a big cardboard box of food, and filling the wood pallet from the woodshed was a constant job. The sugarhouse roof held great appeal, and we lay up there, we our heads over the open flaps in the cupola, wishing we could bottle that sweet steam and breathe it in all year 'round. Dad would swing open the big door of the arch, where the fire roared, and let us cook hotdogs on wires or sticks. And marshmallows. The boiling went on late into the night, and there was always an old couch with a pile of oats to nap in. Dad loved to tell visitors all about the process, and give out samples. Often he would save some sap 'til the next day, special timing for busloads of schoolchildren to see.
I grew and gained the job of driving the bulldozer through the sugarwoods, learning to anticipate just where to stop for each man gathering the sap to pour it into the tank. "Whoa!" was frequently yelled to me. There was some impatience when I drove off the road. It was sometimes hard for a girl to see just where to go, if there was fresh snow. My brother David would take over, backing up and using the blade to push the rig out. The sapsled would jackknife, and there would be some time lost, but he always righted things, and on I'd climb again to drive on. The trip from the home farm woods to the sugarhouse was taken at top speed, often with Stuart driving and singing "Casey Jones" at the top of his lungs. The snow sprayed up from the tracks, and I was on top of the world, a team with my brothers and Dad. At the end of each season came the bucket washing, with Dad holding each one onto a set of revolving brushes in a tub full of sudsy hot water, and me rinsing in another tub. David hauled them to a nearby garage, to stack in pyramids clear to the ceiling, to dry. Mom put the spouts through a lye water boiling, and then spread them on cookie sheets to dry in our woodstove oven.
We changed over to tubing in the seventies, and Dad spent the winter making drops (the short section of tubing with a spout on one end) and tying them into bundles of twenty-five. He was comfortable in front of the fireplace. The snow was deep that year, and we trod through the woods with coils of tubing, running from tree to tree. Just like the men now, he had studied all the newest methods and equipment, and took on a whole new way of "gathering". We had tremendous trouble with squirrels chewing the tubing, and the men spent some time in the woods shooting. They even ran an ad for someone to hunt them! The UVM Extension newsletter advised trapping them and letting them go elsewhere. We had a great laugh over that, thinking of our sugarmaker neighbors. Though I hated the change from our traditional buckets and a lifetime of gathering sap with the family, I will say, I do appreciate the complicated and impressive systems of tubing that the men set up, and have come to love "walking the lines", looking them over.
Wool socks. Boot liners. Snowpants. Turtleneck, sweater, coat, neckwarmer, hat, glove for left hand. Thermos, wire ties, nipper, wire twister, spare glove for left hand, all in back pack. Off to woods. Each time I refill my coat pocket with wire ties, I drink, and rap a hardboiled egg against a tree to crack the shell. Sidestep, twist on a tie, sidestep. Put hand on dog's head to thank him for keeping me company. So silent and beautiful deep in the woods. Trudge along, whistle or sing for awhile. This is work? Everyone should be so blessed.
Crosslots-itis. A day in the sugarwoods, and I've got a case of it. One of the woods stands on a nearly vertical plane, with one main line running up the center, and others coming off it to the sides, horizontally across the mountain. The smaller lines that I was working on go up, from tree to tree, in a slalom pattern. The most certain way to never miss a tap is to strictly follow each line, up or down the hill, around each tree. Then, on to the next. The most practical way to do the job is, with eyes scanning the terrain ahead, move back and forth between two or even three lines as you climb up or slide down the hill. Lose no elevation unnecessarily, is the dictate. There are some deviations to the judgement, involving sheets of ice, fallen trees, and impassable ledges. All taken into consideration on the move, the only stop at each tree, and all attention on the job at hand. Lose no elevation. This philosophy carries over onto civilian life, when I catch myself jaywalking, cutting across parking lots, and wordlessly pushing past family members standing in my way in our kitchen. Crosslots-itis.
I was musing about mowing lawns next summer, then talking about going to the sugarwoods, when Paul, scowling, said,"Why can't you just walk on the road, like the other ladies?" He thinks I should be more careful. And he's right, I've had some ankle trouble. This morning I thought about walking, nicely, on the road, like the other ladies, for some exercise. Then I had a better idea. I called Rebecca. "Can the boys come up sliding?" Surely walking up the big hill several times would get my heart rate up. What fun we had, flying down the pasture at top speed, into the air over hummocks and nearly onto the pond." Again! Again!"