Sunday, October 24, 2010

Deep Mountain Maple

The Special
This week we are pleased to feature maple marshmallows from Deep Mountain Maple of West Glover, Vermont. All this week, Chef Casey Graham will use locally-produced, wood-fired Deep Mountain Maple products in main dishes, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. Be sure to ask your server about tonight’s Deep Mountain Maple Special!

The Farm
Deep Mountain Maple is a maple syrup producer in West Glover, Vermont. They produce pure wood-fired Vermont maple syrup of many flavors as well as a variety of maple candies and confections. Deep Mountain Maple sells the bulk of their products at the Green Market in New York City and to fine restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as in Vermont at the Lake Parker Country Store in West Glover.

“Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasureof food with a commitment to community and the environment.”

Slow Food is the anti-Fast Food. The Slow Food Movement began decades ago in response to the construction of a McDonald’s in an Italian town that prided itself on the local cuisine. Today, Slow Food International has thousands of members around the globe and promotes the slow production and consumption of indigenous foods through workshops and conferences. Maple syrup, Vermont’s famous indigenous treat, is a perfect example of Slow Food: it reflects the environment and community of the place where it is made, takes time and skill to produce, and is best when consumed in a leisurely fashion, like over homemade pancakes late on a Sunday morning.

Howie and Stephan Cantor have been producing maple syrup in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom for over 25 years. Though born out of state, Stephan in Georgia and Howie in Massachusetts, the Cantors are truly at home in their nearly one-hundred-year-old sugarbush in the Vermont woods. Their farm, Deep Mountain Maple, lies three miles outside of the tiny village of West Glover, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. This week the Cantors are far from their home in the woods at the Terra Madre International Slow Food Conference and Festival in Torino, Italy, along with Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery, another one of Juniper’s Restaurant’s featured local cheese producers.

The Cantors are in Italy as representatives of New York City’s Green Market, a network of farmers’ markets in Manhattan and Brooklyn where they have been selling their products for 26 years. In Torino, they will have the opportunity to sample Slow Food from around the world and educate the international Slow Food community about Vermont foods. The idea of educating people about the source of their food has always been part of the Deep Mountain Maple philosophy. “We’ve been going to the Green Market in New York City for 26 years now,” says Stephan. “It is the largest urban outdoor farmers’ market in the country. And we’ve been standing on the street for 26 years, talking to our customers and hearing how people feel about food and maple syrup. We came to understand that we like the real marketplace, and the whole idea of a farmers’ market, especially in an urban place, where people come and meet the people who are producing the food they eat. For me that’s a big part of it, reconnecting people to their food.”

The Terra Madre Conference promotes local foods whose production have a positive impact on their environment and community, and the Green Market chose Howie and Stephan as delegates because Deep Mountain Maple embodies this ideal. The Cantors’ maple syrup is made without pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers of any kind, and their maple trees are healthy thanks to constant, generous rain and snowfall and the Northeast Kingdom’s rich, rocky soil. Deep Mountain Maple employs local people to boil and package their wood fired maple syrup, and their customers in New York and Vermont know they are buying products that represent and enhance the place where they were made. “In all that we do, we seek to manage the forest in a way that sustains it, and our future as sugarmakers,” Stephan writes on Deep Mountain Maple’s website. The Cantors are proud that their product is “real food” and contains no artificial ingredients. “I’m way into real food,” says Stephan. “It’s just a little thing we can do as producers to put real food out there, and Vermont is a real greenhouse for these kind of ideas. In our own little way we’re part of that movement. It’s all tied together, respect for the forest and for ourselves, for what we put into our bodies.”

Maple syrup production has changed in recent years, becoming faster and more industrialized, though it is still a slow and painstaking process. The Cantors currently use a system of hoses connected to a vacuum to harvest sap from the trees, but they used to collect it in buckets, guiding a sledge pulled by draft horses through silent, snowy woods to deliver sap to the sugarhouse. Do they miss the old days? “I don’t!” says Stephan. “It was really hard work!” “I sort of miss it,” says Howie. “It’s a whole other sport. But it’s hard to find people willing to do that kind of work these days.” The vacuum system doesn’t seem to affect the syrup’s flavor. The Cantors still boil their syrup in a wood-fired sugarhouse in the heart of the sugarbush, and they bottle it on the farm in their own canning facility. Howie tempers the adoption of new technology by continuing to respect and care for the forest. “Sugaring used to be this really sacred thing,” he says. “It’s gone from this incredible respect for the forest and what the trees give, to getting as much as you can as fast as you can. We try to honor the forest, maybe because we live in it.” Howie and Stephan’s beautiful wood and stone house sits in the middle of their sugarbush, sheltered by the very trees that provide their livelihood.

The Cantors use maple syrup constantly in their own cooking. “We use it for everything. If a recipe calls for sugar, you can substitute maple sugar,” says Stephan. “It’s great in any basic Asian sauce, great in tomato sauce. Fortunately, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, so eating too much syrup isn’t a big problem for me!” Some of their customers in New York use Deep Mountain Maple products in more unconventional ways. “We have friends in New York who are high-end mixologists, which is a fancy way of saying they’re bartenders,” Stephan says. “There’s a place in New York has used our syrup to make several interesting things, not least of which is a bacon-infused Manhattan sweetened with maple syrup.” Deep Mountain’s maple marshmallows, an original product of which the Cantors are particularly proud, can be used just like traditional marshmallows, and I must say that they are delicious in homemade hot cocoa. My personal recipe calls for the cocoa to be sipped slowly, from the comfort of an armchair next to a woodstove, with a good book in hand.

You can read more about the Cantors and their trip to Italy in the Barton Chronicle online, Orleans County’s weekly newspaper.

*This is my final post as the Farm to Table Project Coordinator this season. Thank you all for reading, and be sure to check the blog again when Juniper’s Restaurant reopens in December. It has been an honor and a privilege to interview the members of the Northeast Kingdom's agricultural community and hear what they have to contribute to the ongoing conversation about local foods. There are some truly exciting and delicious things happening around here.

-Meg Gibson


  1. Meg,
    Thanks for taking on and excelling with this project!!! Your essays on each farm have been eyeopening and inspiring to many. We wish you all the best out west and look forward to following your career as it continues to blossom.
    With special thanks,
    Jim and Mary

  2. This looks great I have never seen anything like it before thanks for sharing.

    Restaurant Equipment