• Editor's Note Winter 2017

    Editor's Note Winter 2017

    “If you’re going to Québec City, you have to visit a cabane à sucre,” said Claire. And her good advice was confirmed as soon as my partner and I walked into Cabane à Sucre Leclerc in Neuville on a chilly, snowy evening.

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  • Set the Table with Poutine

    Set the Table with Poutine

    I grew up in California, in a world of dayboat salmon, tofu, and spinach salad. I only became vaguely aware of the odd sounding “poutine” when I moved to Vermont. French fries with gravy and cheese curds? I mean, that all sounds weird enough without including the word “curds” at the end.

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  • Along the Route des Vins

    Along the Route des Vins

    In the first unpredictable weeks of spring, workers at Québec’s Léon Courville vineyard lay the bones of 1,200 tiny bonfires between the vines.

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  • So Close And Yet So Far

    So Close And Yet So Far

    Ask people in agriculture about the challenges of selling Vermont food in Québec, and folks tend to have the same first reaction.

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  • Au Marché

    Au Marché

    On a sunny, crisp day in early September, a friend and I meandered over the border to visit three Québec farmers’ markets.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Every week at Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, six tons of flour is mixed, kneaded, and transformed into 18,000 loaves of bread.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Some 20 years ago, when Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds was living in Holland, Vermont, just on the border with Québec, he met Laurier Chabot at a biodynamic agriculture conference.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    When David and Linda Boyden started Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge in 1996, they had zero experience in viticulture or oenology, save for a class that David had taken at Cornell University.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Imagine two Caesar salads: Both are tossed in that classic salty dressing and topped with croutons, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. And both salads have, as their base, crisp and crunchy romaine lettuce.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Fields  of  Gold

    Neighbors to the North—Fields of Gold

    Jack Lazor called me at 8:00 p.m. the other night, which surprised me. I’m used to dairy farmer hours, and 8:00 p.m is past bedtime for most dairymen and women I’ve known.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Vermont Salumi, a small company making fresh sausages and hand-tied salami in the Italian tradition, is based just outside Plainfield.

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  • To Market, to Bank

    To Market, to Bank

    Québecois grower Jean-Martin Fortier draws a distinction between a good living and a good life.  “’A good living’ mostly refers to how much money you make,” he tells me during a phone call. A good life, in contrast, takes into account “how your time is spent, and to what purpose.”

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  • My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    Whenever I catch a whiff of cinnamon or cloves, my mind drifts to my mother’s kitchen and the French Canadian food traditions that shaped how I learned to cook.

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Farmers' Kitchen—Singular Syrup

Darrell Bussino, Amy Wright, Bucky Shelton
Darrell Bussino, Amy Wright, Bucky Shelton

Written on

February 22 , 2017

A few years ago, our friend Bucky came home from a visit to his daughter in Alaska with a bottle of Alaskan birch syrup. For a few months we talked about how we could combine our large stand of birch trees with his 30-plus years making maple syrup. We began to consider producing birch syrup in Vermont.  

In 2014 we did an experiment, tapping 400 trees. We had no idea how the sap would run, or how much sap to expect. There aren’t many birch syrup producers on the East Coast and no standard for making birch syrup. Plus, the ratio of birch sap to syrup is three times greater than that of maple (120 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup). The first time we boiled, we watched as the clear, sweet sap gradually turned darker shades of red, but we ran out of sap before we could draw off (after an eight-hour boil!). The next night we drew off our first batch of syrup.  We made about 10 gallons that year and considered the season to have been a success, as we quickly sold all of the syrup.

We now tap around 1,100 trees, and sell our syrup at farmers’ markets, co-ops, and general stores around Vermont, as well as online. Our syrup has also been featured on menus in Vermont and Boston.

You may have heard that birch syrup is bitter or sour, or tastes like medicine, but we haven’t found that to be true. Birch syrup has a more complex flavor than maple syrup and tastes a bit like molasses, with undertones of raspberry and caramel. We sample our syrup at farmers’ markets around Vermont and most people are pleasantly surprised by the flavor, even those who are hesitant to taste it. We often hear, “It tastes a little like molasses, and something else…” And that something else can be different for each person.

We find birch syrup to be more of a cooking syrup than a pancake syrup (although some do like it on their pancakes), and a little goes a long way. We drizzle it on roasted vegetables, particularly Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and carrots, and we have used it as a glaze on salmon and meats. Our daughter adds it to seltzer water to make a drink that tastes like cream soda. It’s also great drizzled over cheese on a cheese plate or over ice cream. 

We are always experimenting, and we love to hear ways that our customers are using our birch syrup. Let us know!

Vermont Birch Syrup Company is located in Glover and owned by Bucky Shelton, Darrell Bussino, and Amy Wright. Syrup is sold at the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier; Currier’s General Store in Glover; Newport Natural Market & Café and Pick and Shovel, both in Newport; Littleton Food Co-Op in New Hampshire; and at farmers’ markets around Vermont. Find us online at vermontbirchsyrupcompany.com and on Facebook, where we post our summer market schedule.

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Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


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Home Stories Issues 2017 Spring '17 | Issue forty Farmers' Kitchen—Singular Syrup