Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks: Exploring the Sweet Side of Vermont

The four types of maple syrup

One whiff of the sweet smell of maple, and you know you are in Vermont. Did you know that Vermont is the nation’s leading producer of maple syrup? With over 1,500 Sugarhouses across the state producing almost 2 million gallons of syrup in a year, how do you know which is the best? Hint: They all are! On a recent trip to Vermont, I was fortunate to visit one of Vermont’s oldest sugarhouses – Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks.Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks Sign

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks History and InformationMorse Farm Maple Sugarworks

Since settling in central Vermont, eight generations of Morse’s have produced high-quality maple syrup. They learned how to tap maple trees from Native Americans. The Native Americans made their maple sugar by the arduous process of dropping hot rocks onto wooden containers filled with maple sap. The steam wafted away and left maple sugar. The Morse’s have perfected their process since those early days by boiling the sap down into maple syrup. Morse Farm offers free sugarhouse tours, tastings, nature trails, a multi-media story-telling in the woodshed theater, farm animals, tractors, antiques, wood sculptures, and of course, a country store for you to buy maple syrup to take home.Back of Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks

The Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Morse Farm is less than 3 miles from the state capital, at 1168 County Road, Montpelier, Vermont 05602. The farm has plenty of parking and a lower lot for pull-in RVs and motor coaches. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the model of the Vermont State House on the grounds which has been protected and housed on the Morse Farm since 2007. Model of the Vermont State HouseFlower Window Box Display

Good Things Start with a Single Drop of Sap – Maple Syrup ProcessThe sap room at Morse Farm

Getting maple syrup out of the tree to your breakfast table is actually a simple process.

  • Step 1 is to Tap the Trees. Toward the end of February to the beginning of March, they will tap the trees using buckets or tubing. On the Morse Farm, they drill one tap hole in each of their maple trees. After this is done, the next step is to wait.
  • Step 2 is to Wait for the Sap Run. When you have cold nights and warm days, the sap will run. Sometimes you might get a sap run during a January thaw. But the primary sugar season usually happens between mid-March and mid-April. You can get anywhere from one to three sap runs during this timeframe.
  • Step 3 is to Gather the Sap. The traditional way to gather sap is by a horse-drawn sleigh. The sap is mostly clear water with only 2% sugar content at this point. On the Morse Farm, their gathering of one tree nets them 10 gallons of sap in an average year. Photo: Collection of Maple Syrup in the winter
  • Step 4 is to Transfer the Sap to a Storage Tank. The sap is transferred to a storage tank that is connected to the sugarhouse. This connection allows the most consistent sap flow into the evaporator during the boiling phase.
  • Step 5 is to Boil the Sap. It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of pure maple syrup. This syrup has 66.9% sugar content after the boiling process. Approximately, four maple trees, 40 to 200 years old, are needed to make one gallon of pure maple syrup.
  • Step 6 is to Draw-Off and Filter the Sap. The filtering process removes niter, which is sugar sand, from the syrup.
  • Step 7 is the fun step – Sample the Maple Syrup. You have to sample the syrup to determine what grade the maple syrup will be. Maple syrup is graded by color and intensity of maple flavor.
  • Step 8 is the final step – Packaging the Syrup. After the syrup has been graded, it is canned using Pure Vermont Maple Syrup containers.

Types of Maple SyrupDifferent types of Maple Syrup

There are four different types or grades of maple syrup. The lighter syrups are harvested early in the season, where the darker ones are from later in the season. At the beginning of the season, the syrup is usually clear with a slightly sweet taste. Toward the end of the season, the syrup becomes darker and more caramelized.

  • Golden – Harvested at the very beginning of the season. Has a light golden hue and sweet, delicate flavor. Great for toppings on yogurt and ice cream.
  • Amber – This syrup has a pure, rich taste and an amber color. Great for an ingredient in vinaigrettes and all sorts of dishes and desserts.
  • Dark – This syrup, with its rich caramelized flavor, is well-suited for cooking, baking and sauces. Great for an addition to fruity dishes.
  • Very Dark – Harvested at the end of the season. Its flavor is full-bodied and hearty. Great for sauces and glazes.

The best way to figure out which type is your favorite is to taste them all. My preference is for the lightest version – Golden. If you want to try the different types and can’t get to Vermont, Morse Farm has a sampler that you can purchase.

Character WoodCharacter Wood at Morse Farm

Walking around Morse Farm, you will be delighted to find folklore creatures made out of sugar wood. Burr Morse is the creator of these masterpieces. He says he just finds pieces of wood that already look like something. Burr self-proclaims he is not an artist; he is just good with a chain saw. What do you think? Personally, self-proclaimed artist or not, these are fabulous!Elephant and Donkey Character WoodCow Character wood artOwl Character Wood

Woodshed TheaterWoodshed Theater

The Woodshed Theater is a unique theater made entirely of sugar wood. You can sit on a stump on watch videos of the Morse Farm maple process humorously told by Harry Morse, the father of Burr, who runs the farm today. During the winter, this activity moves indoors. Morse Farm Family History

Maple CreemeesMaple Creemees at Morse Farm

What is a Maple Creemee?  It is a Vermont specialty of a soft-serve maple-flavored ice-cream on a sugar cone. I had to try one of these while I was visiting, and it did not disappoint. The ice-cold maple-flavored creamy goodness was perfect on a warm sunny day.

The Little Touches Around Morse FarmOld tractor at the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks

When I visit someplace new, I always look for the little extras that make a place feel special. Morse Farm does a great job with the creative wood displays and decorations for autumn. When you visit, bring your camera because you don’t know what will be there and that makes it interesting. Rusted metal displayA bunch of white and orange pumpkinsOrange and White Pumpkins for the fallSpider by the pumpkins

Vermont in the FallVermont Landscape in the Fall Season

My visit to Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks was in late September. I was expecting more colors, but Mother Nature was a bit stubborn that year. However, the color I did capture was beautiful. The scenery makes me want to go back there and capture the colors at peak season. Orange fall color in VermontMorse Farm landscape in the fallColored leaves left on a treeFallen leaves on the grass in Autumn

SummaryA cornucopia of pumpkins

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks is a great place to take a fall road trip through New England and pick up a bottle or two of maple syrup. I had such a good time on my visit. The entire Morse family is so friendly and very entertaining. And you can’t go wrong with Vermont landscapes like that begging to be photographed. All in all, this is a must-see destination for you to put on your future bucket list.

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Further Reading

If you are coming to the New England area for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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