As winter clings to Vermont (temperatures only in the 20s and 30s this week), Vermonters revel in a little sweet tradition: maple sugaring. Sugar shacks across the state are ablaze with wood-fired boilers reducing sap to Vermont maple syrup (the best in the world, in our opinion). For some, sugaring is a seasonal family tradition, for some it’s an important income source, for others it’s both.
The alchemical tradition of reducing maple sap to liquid gold predates the Green Mount State. The Iroquois hold the honor of discovering this natural wonder millennia before IHOP even thought of a pancake. The sweet history of maple syrup includes the Iroquois’ altruistic gift of teaching early European settlers the magic of this springtime joy.
There is another sweet aspect to the history of Maple Syrup in Vermont. According to the Vermont Historical Society, the popularity of maple sugar (and later syrup) is related to our condemnation of slavery:
Maple sugar was a major cash commodity for Vermont farmers during the nineteenth century. Just before the Civil War, cane sugar lost its appeal to most northerners due to its association with slave labor, and during the war it became scarce. As a result, sugar made from maple sap gained in popularity. In 1870, Vermont, the leading producer in the country, reported making nine million pounds of sugar. By 1890 Vermont was refining fourteen million pounds of sugar—one quarter of the United States’ total supply.
The combined notions of rebellion, ingenuity and humanitarianism make Vermont maple syrup a little sweeter. As we enjoy the fruits of the season, we watch the snow begin to recede from the garlic fields and think ahead to little green shoots and garlic scapes.
In the meantime, we can enjoy the marriage of the flavors of Maple and Garlic in the following recipes:
Maple Garlic Roasted Root Veggies
Maple Garlic Glazed Green Beans
Maple Garlic Salmon
and here’s a union of garlic and maple across the plate:
Maple Bourbon Marinated Tofu with Garlic Pan-Fried Potatoes & Brussels Sprout Slaw
image credits: www.vermonthistory.org and imjustdoingthisthing.com