The New England and Canadian region is known for many things, but if you travel there and don’t return with a bottle of maple syrup, it’s considered a waste of a trip by those who were expecting the amber liquid for their pancakes and waffles.
Although there are many maple syrup stores in Vermont, Palmer Lane Maple is a family-run shop, and owners Paul and Colleen Palmer know everything there is to know about anything maple.
“We have been in this location for almost four years. We started as a wholesale company at our other property in Jeffersonville, which is up by Smuggler’s Notch, and then we bought this property,” said Colleen of the store located at 1 Old Pump Rd., Jericho, VT.
Wrapping up their ninth year of business, Colleen’s husband, Paul, is a native Vermonter and longtime sugar maker. He has been sugaring since he was 4 years old and with a family that has been in sugaring since the 1940s, you can bet it’s a passion.
“We always joke that if you were to slice his arm open, he would bleed maple,” said Colleen, who added that her two daughters, age 12 and 14 also help out in the family store. “It’s not unusual to call them in and help with the employees because it is so much a family business and it’s all they’ve ever known.”
The maple syrup season or sugaring season, is normally three to six weeks. The Palmers start tapping in January and February, but say it depends on how big the sugar bush is. Once tapped, cleaned and prepped, all that’s left to do is wait for the weather to warm up.
“Days in the 50s and nights below freezing is ideal sugaring weather,” said Colleen. “From raw sap to boiling it into the finished product that is syrup depends on the equipment used, so the time to complete the process varies.”
The Palmers will not only help you pick the perfect syrup, but educate you as well. Did you know that there are four grades of syrup? Each grade goes from lightest to darkest in color and has two descriptors for color and taste. The Palmers encourage customers to taste and try their syrup to see if they like it.
“All around dark and robust syrup is good on French toast and waffles, but you can make granola or salad dressing with it and put it in oatmeal, cream of wheat and even coffee and tea,” said Colleen. “In fact, the North American Maple Syrup Council and National Maple Syrup Institute have a lot of information on the different grades. The University of Vermont (UVM) and Cornell have dedicated research institutes for maple as well.”
Some syrup can be described as golden with a delicate taste or very dark and strong. Although Colleen is not a native Vermonter, she has come to love the dark and robust, which is visually what many people are used to.
“It’s a good all-around syrup,” she said. “The very dark syrup is great if you’re a baker or a foodie if you like to cook. It’s great in maple cheesecake, maple pumpkin pie and even barbecue sauce.”
Colleen said that while she has many regulars and locals year round who stop in for some syrup, business is quite busy in the summer season, with the most popular item for sale: the maple creemee, which is soft-serve maple flavored ice cream.
“For tourists, our most popular item is, of course, syrup because it’s easy and something everybody knows. Maple candy is not as well-known when you step outside of New England,” said Colleen. “We maple snobs use maple cream or maple sugar, but tourists like to take home syrup for their own use or gift it to friends and family.”
For more information on Palmer Lane Maple, call 802-899-8199 or visit www.palmerlanemaple.com.