This week we’re saying a salty sayonara to “The Beehive State” of Utah and trekking all the way back to the other side of the country to the state flowing with milk and maple syrup. From the beautiful southwest dessert this week we’re settling high atop the Green Mountains, which lend the use of their name to the state for its nickname. Last week we feasted on ‘famous green jello’ and this week it’s all about the Chubby Hubby and Phish Food! We toured the Great Salt Lake last week and this week we’re onto what could have been the sixth Great Lake! Alright, I’ll stop dropping hints and finally just say ‘Welcome to Vermont Week’! (Hmm, I seem to be a little exclamation point happy today – just a warning…)
I think it’s pretty safe to say, that like Idaho with their potatoes, Vermont is most readily associated with their maple syrup. In fact, the state with the second smallest population produces nearly 35% of all the maple syrup for the entire country. (The Sugar Maple is even the State Tree!) The history of maple syrup production can be traced back to the early native inhabitants of what would eventually become Vermont, and variations on some of those early methods are still used today. The maple sugar industry has a $226 Million Dollar annual impact on the state of Vermont where one in every four trees is a maple. I’ve come across all kinds of fun maple syrup facts to share with the kiddos this week, including that forty years are required to grow a sugar maple tree large enough to tap. A tree ten inches in diameter is considered minimum tappable size for one tap. It takes 4-5 taps to produce enough maple sap (40 gallons) to produce one gallon of syrup. They’ll be no shortage of syrup around here this week…
Another food they’ll be no shortage of – cheese, of the cheddar variety most specifically! (I mean, Vermont even has its own Cheese Trail!) The dairy industry in Vermont is huge, generating 68 million per year in state and local government tax revenue and employing about 7,500 Vermonters. Those dairy farmers, who then produce items such as cheese, ice cream, dips, cream cheese, yogurt, fluid milk and milk powder actually purchase about 98% of their supplies locally and those products, sold directly from Vermont farms generate over $560 million of income annually. One of the most recognizable dairy producers in the state is Cabot Creamery. In 1919, 94 farmers banded together to purchase the building that would become the main factory for Cabot Creamery. The cheddar that Cabot produces (which has won awards declaring it to be the World’s Best Cheddar) is what’s known as a ‘white’ or Vermont cheddar. According to my good friends at Wikipedia: “Cheddar that does not contain annatto, a nutty spice which gives cheddar its familiar yellow-orange hue, is frequently labelled "white cheddar" or "Vermont cheddar" (regardless of whether it was actually produced there)” You can bet we’ll be sampling some Cabot cheese this week!
Some of the milk that is produced by the Vermont farms is also used by one of my personal favorite things about Vermont – Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream! Founded in 1978 by childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in a renovated gas station in Burlington, the company is known for its trademark chunks being mixed in with their ice cream. (Fun fact, this started because Cohen has anosmia and therefore relies on ‘mouth feel’ when taste testing!) With more flavors then you could ever hope to try (they even have a flavor graveyard of flavors they are no longer producing!), the company employs about 446 workers at their factory and earns $132 million in annual revenue. In addition to being sold in grocery stores around the world, there are over 5,800 Ben and Jerry stores worldwide. “Free Cone Day” is held annually to thank their fans and if we ever make a trip to Vermont I hear that a factory tour of what is now the main factory in Waterbury is a must!
Amid all the cows, you just may spot a horse or two while you are in Vermont. If you do, there’s a good chance it is the Vermont born and bred Morgan Horse. One of the earliest US breeds, the Morgan horse was sired by Figure, owned by Justin Morgan (who was also a composer!) in Randolph. (Figure was actually born in Massachusetts and was acquired by Morgan to pay of a debt believe it or not!). The Morgan is known for its versatility, being used as coach horses and for harness racing, as general riding animals, and as cavalry horses during the American Civil War on both sides of the conflict. They are a compact, refined breed, bay, black or chestnut in color. There is even a National Museum in Middlebury which pays tribute to the Morgan and its history. I have no doubt Mikayla is going to want one by the end of the week…
Besides the mountains, the most recognizable land feature of Vermont is Lake Champlain. Situated between Vermont and New York (and a little bit in Canada), Lake Champlain is actually the sixth largest freshwater lake in the US – right behind all five of the Great Lakes. The 120 mile long lake contains 6.8 trillion gallons of water, 70 islands and has over 600 miles of coastline. It’s role in US history is also key due to its strategic importance as the only navigable passage between the Adirondack and Green Mountains. As a result, many important forts were built and several critical battles were fought upon its shores. And it has it’s very own creature! If legend is to be believed, Champ inhabits the depths of Lake Champlain and has been ‘spotted’ over 300 times. If Mikayla’s getting a horse (and I’m eating Ben and Jerry’s), Noah is going to want to go Champ spotting, I’m thinking…
Though not native to Vermont, a key figure in its history, Ethan Allen had one or two run-ins near Lake Champlain during his tenure as leader of The Green Mountain Boys. What would eventually become Vermont was once a hotly disputed territory spanning New York and New Hampshire, knowing as the New Hampshire Grants, which became the Vermont Republic before entering the Union. The "Green Mountain Boys", led by Ethan Allen, was a militia force from Vermont that supported the New Hampshire claims and fought the British during the American Revolution. In one of their fiercest battles, the Green Mountain Boys, along with Allen and Benedict Arnold capture Fort Ticonderoga (situated on the shores of Lake Champlain) from the British. Located in Burlington, the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum gives visitors a chance to learn even more about the men that had a hand in forming Vermont.
Though they didn’t have a hand in forming Vermont, two native born Vermonters did have a role in shaping the Nation when they were President. The only US President to actually be born on the 4th of July, Calvin Coolidge served as the nation’s thirtieth president. Born in Plymouth, Coolidge served as President from 1923-1929 when he assumed the role upon the death of Warren Harding in office. One of his most lasting attributes was making use of a new medium sweeping the country at the time – the radio, including giving the first presidential inauguration broadcast on radio. Twenty-first President Chester Arthur also hailed from Vermont, though he ran for office from New York. Born in Fairfield, Arthur became President upon the assassination of James Garfield in 1881 and served until 1885. Historian George F. Howe described Arthur by saying "Arthur adopted [a code] for his own political behavior but subject to three restraints: he remained to everyone a man of his word; he kept scrupulously free from corrupt graft; he maintained a personal dignity, affable and genial though he might be. These restraints...distinguished him sharply from the stereotype politician."
I’m not wasting any time jumping on the culinary goodness that Vermont has to offer this week and tonight (in pieces, grumble grumble grumble about religious ed times – yep, every week!) we’re feasting on Heaven in Vermont Grilled Cheese and Yankee Salad. I knew they’d be all about the grilled cheese which features Cabot cheddar, bacon and of course, maple syrup! I was a little more hesitant about the Yankee Salad but it looked like too much fun not to try this week! I mean pasta and whipped cream… And there was no question in my mind that tonight’s dessert would be Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!
So there you have it, the mapley, cheddary, dairy-filled, horse-breeding, creature inhabited Lake having, ice cream genius state of Vermont! We’re ready this week, hope you are! I’ve got some maple crock-pot goodness and a salute to the official state pie coming tomorrow, and who knows what else! So until then…
Vermont Fun Fact of the Day: Until 1996, Vermont was the only state without a Wal-Mart.
Vermont, you're up!
Official Vermont Cheddar (not Cabot, couldn't find it...)
And real maple syrup for recipes this week
Noah got a PERFECT score on his math test. So stinkin' proud of him!
Heaven from Vermont in sandwich form
Yankee Salad (Kristi's note - everyone here really liked this, but beware - I halved the recipe and it made A TON. Halving it would easily feed the 6-8 the full recipe claims to be for)
Grant especially loved the grilled cheese tonight (though didn't hear any complaints from anyone)
Pretty simple Vermont dinner tonight
Our flavor choices for the evening
Grant is suggesting that the Cinnamon bun be used as a breakfast food....