[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]
I am now the proud adoptive parent of a Vermont maple tree. We haven't seen each other in person yet, but I'm sure that she's growing tall and strong. I'm positive she's sweet natured and bringing joy to others. In short, I couldn't be more proud.
I was huge into adopting whales as a child (I know you're out there Cat Paw! Rule those waves!), so I was pretty excited when I learned about the tree adoption program from Tonewood Maple. Adopters receive three packages over the course of nine months, including a super cool adoption certificate—which may or may not live on my kitchen windowsill for all to see—a photo of their tree, a four grade collection of syrup from the selected sugarbush (more on that below), samples of maple wafers and a solid maple cube.
Adoption certificate and maple syrup collection.
Many people don't realize that traditional maple farming is under duress
This is one of those awesome scenarios where you personally benefit from doing something good for the planet. How it works is that Tonewood has partnered with artisan maple producers in Vermont's Mad River Valley, such as Hartshorn and Vasseur Maple, to produce high quality maple products while practicing sustainable, small-scale farming. Many people don't realize that traditional maple farming is under duress from competition from cheap imitation syrups (sorry Aunt Jemima, I'm looking at you) and large scale producers who blend their syrup from multiple sources. In other words, supporting small family maple farms is not just good for the environment but for the industry, and by association, your pancakes.
So onto the sweet stuff. Tonewood provides four grades of maple syrup: Vermont Fancy, Vermont Grade A Medium Amber, Vermont Grade A Dark Amber, and Vermont Grade B. Vermont Fancy (also known as light amber) is more subtly flavored, while Vermont Grade B is dark and complex—and by far my favorite.
Grade B Maple Syrup
If you're not adopting, I'd still recommend the Vermont Grade B maple syrup which, to my mind, is the only grade of maple syrup worth baking with. All syrups of this grade should have a robust flavor that stands up to spices and doesn't dissolve into tasting simply like sugar. This maple syrup in particular was complex, with notes of molasses and bourbon after an initial pop of pure, sweet maple.
You can find more about the tree adoption program and maple products at Tonewoodmaple.com
About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios