22 Oct A Taste of Vermont
Vermont is a land of plenty; rolling fields with grazing dairy cows, maple-tree forests, vegetable patches and orchards produce lots of fresh, delicious food. While travelling through the state we sampled so much scrumptious, homemade and grown food; here’s a little taste of what we ate in Vermont.
*Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where on when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*
Sugarbush is an independent, family-run working farm which has been producing and selling its own delicious cheeses, jams, spreads and syrups for the last 70 years. Sugarbush is well worth a visit for the view alone, from its perch on a hill you can look out over the fields where the farm’s 65 dairy cows graze to the forest below which houses 6,000 maple trees. When we arrived at Sugarbush we were greeted by the new calf, Sugar, and some of the resident goats and horses before heading on to the tasting room.
Like most farms in Vermont, Sugarbush belongs to a milk marketing co-op, a group of farmers who band together to sell their products. Sugarbush’s milk is converted into cheese at a co-op plant and taken back to the farm to be aged to increase flavour. Milder cheeses are aged for just a few months, I skipped tasting these and went straight onto the stronger cheddars which had been aged for two, four, six, eight or even ten years. The cheese is wrapped in foil and then dipped in wax for preservation.
After trying a range of jams, mustards and spreads, we took a look at the farm’s sugarhouse. Each winter maple trees are tapped for sap, which is collected and taken to the evaporator in the sugarhouse, where it is boiled down into syrup; it takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup. The Vermont Department of Agriculture Standards require the syrup to be graded into four categories based on colour and flavour: Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark.
Sugarbush Farm is free to visit, its address is: 591 Sugarbush Farm Road, Woodstock, Vermont.
Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour
Vermonters Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield started their now-famous ice cream business in Burlington, after taking a $5 correspondence course on ice cream making. Although the company is now owned by Unilever it has kept its ethical credentials, using fairtrade ingredients and milk from dairy cows which haven’t been given growth hormones. The company also does community work in Vermont and locals have shares in the company.
We were treated to some unseasonably hot weather when we visited the Ben & Jerry’s Factory, perfect for ice cream tasting. As it was Columbus Day, no ice cream was being made at the plant but we still took a fun, 30 minute tour, which included a video about the company’s history, a look inside the factory room and a robust scoop of Cherry Garcia ice cream.
The Ben & Jerry’s Factory tour costs $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and is free for kids under 12. The factory address is: 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Route 100, Waterbury, Vermont.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill
Just up the road from Ben & Jerry’s you’ll find Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where they make delicious cider from local apples as well as donuts and pies. As we found out, unless it’s labelled Hard, in America all cider is non-alcoholic – essentially it’s just unpasteurised apple juice.
We popped into the mill shop to taste some of their cider and pick up a couple of their homemade cider donuts and a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It’s a bit like the Vermont Country Store in that you can wander around and taste locally made spreads and jams.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill is free to visit, it can be found at: 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Route 100, Waterbury Center, Vermont.
The Vermont Country Store
The Vermont Country Store may have started as a small, family-run business but it now has its own pinpoints on the tourist map and sells everything from toys, clothes and homeware to of course, delicious food. Some say the Country Store has become a bit of a tourist trap and it’s been criticised for selling plastic Chinese toys but there’s still plenty of Vermont goodness to be found there, including local cheeses, jams, syrups and spreads as well as handmade fudge and so much more.
We were quite literally like kids in a candy store when we first stepped inside and saw glass jars brimming over with colourful sweets lining the shelves and a fudge table where we sampled every flavour from pumpkin to maple and chocolate-peanut butter. We continued round the food section darting from one cheese to another, gorging on strong, aged Cabot and Plymouth samples. We went on to taste savoury dips and mustards, homemade jams, pretzels and cookies with cheesecake mix.
Vermont Country stores can be found at: 657 Main Street, Weston and 1292 Rockingham Road, Rockingham, Vermont.
Billings Farm & Museum
Fredrick Billings established this perfect slice of Vermont farm life back in 1871. A pioneering conservationist, Billings was concerned about deforestation in Vermont and replanted over 10,000 trees in the Woodstock area; the farm was also later owned by famous conservationist Laurance Rockefeller. Billings became of model of ethical farming practices and remains a fully-operating dairy farm today, known for its herd of award-winning Jersey cows, as well as its modern museum which examines Vermont’s rural past and farming history.
We visited Billings Farm for a fall festival where we had fun joining in with a husking bee, watched apples being pressed and ice cream being made. It was a beautiful crisp, sunny autumn day with clear skies which showed off the staggering Vermont scenery perfectly. While we were at the farm we picked up some strong Cabot cheese, tasted some of the farm’s apples and cider and ate some of their homemade donuts and warm pumpkin bread.
Billings Farm and Museum costs $14 for adults, $4-8 for children and $13 for seniors. The farm is located on Route 12 and River Road, Woodstock, Vermont.
The Cabot Creamery
The Cabot Creamery is a co-op which was formed over 95 years ago by 94 independent farms in northeast Vermont. Today this co-op continues and Cabot cheese has become famous, winning awards for its tasty cheddars.
We’re not fans of weak cheese and will always go for mature, strong flavours, so we picked up a block of Extra Sharp Cabot cheese from Billings Farm, which is part of the Cabot co-op. We also tasted many varieties of Cabot cheese in the Vermont Country Store and the Cabot Quechee Store.
You can take a free factory tour at the Cabot Visitor Center in Cabot and sample their cheeses at Cabot stores in Waterbury, Quechee and Portland.
Vermont Orchards and Farm Stands
There’s so much fresh produce in Vermont and it’s sold on every farm stand, local store and farmer’s market. Since we visited in autumn, there was an overflow of seasonal treasures for sale like squashes, gourds, pumpkins, apples, carrots and sprouts as well as homemade apple cider, fruit pies and locally-made maple syrup.
As we drove through Vermont we passed dozens of signs for farm stalls and places selling fresh eggs or veggies, maple syrup and cider. One afternoon we stopped at Alyson’s Orchard where we bought some just-picked MacIntosh apples, they were delicious and juicy, perfect for the pie we baked them into.
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Have we made you hungry? What are your favourite autumn foods?