Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Vermont I - You want some pie to go with that pie?

Our final stop in the Northeast is the only landlocked state in New England, a state known for its fierce progressive values, its cheeses, its Ben & Jerry's, its maple syrup and, of course, its pies.  So so soooooo many pies.

Official Name: State of Vermont
State Nickname: The Green Mountain State
Admission to the US: March 4, 1791 (#14 - the first one they added after the thirteen original colonies)
Capital: Montpelier (5th largest city, though several unincorporated towns are larger)
Other Important Cities: Burlington (largest), North Burlington (2nd largest), Essex (largest town - if it were a city it would be the 3rd largest in Vermont)
Region: New England, Northeast; New England (US Census)
RAFT NationsMaple Syrup
Bordered by: Québec (Canada) (north), New Hampshire (east), Massachusetts (south), New York (west), Lake Champlain (northwest)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: apple (fruit), apple pie (pie), brook trout (cold water fish), honeybee (insect - for the honey), maple (flavor), milk (beverage), sugar maple (tree - for the maple syrup), walleye pike (warm water fish) 
Some Famous and Typical Foods: pie, pie and more pie; maple syrup (there's a pie for that, by the way); cranberries, apples (in the official state pie); French Canadian foods (poutine, tourtière - again with the pie!?)

True, pie isn't the only foodie thing Vermont is known for: there is, again, its cheddar, its apples, its maple syrup and again that famous aforementioned ice cream.  But historically, from what this outsider has read, pie seems to be at the very heart of the Vermonter identity.  And it's what makes a Yankee a "Yankee".  True, to those of us below the Mason-Dixon Line and, especially, outside our borders the term isn't the nicest thing to call someone. But once you get to New England it all changes (why else name a whole magazine after this demonym?)  And yes, many New Englanders think of "Yankees" as those White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who have been there, eating pie, for generations, though a seemingly ancient New England poem gives us some humorous insight into just who exactly is a "Yankee":
To the European, a Yankee is an American.
To an American, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To a New Englander, a Yankee is a Vermonter..
To a Vermonter, a Yankee is someone who eats apple pie for breakfast.
And to a Vermonter who eats apple pie for breakfast, a Yankee is someone who eats it with a knife.
[Traditional "Old New England joke", date unknown, quoted from The Heart of New England, date unknown; note: this is not the famous E.B. White poem about Yankees, though it may be derived from it,]
It's a much more exclusive club than I ever realized.

For this penultimate New England post, I knew I had to tackle pies one final time.  I decided against apple pie, however, and went for one of Vermont's other favorite exports: maple syrup.  In my first ever trip to New England a few years ago, I stopped in Boston's fabled Faneuil Hall.  Wandering around the gift shop, of course I found little bottles of authentic New England maple syrup.  But notably, and to my surprise, it wasn't Massachusetts-made.  Instead, it proudly display the "Made in Vermont" label.  It's less surprising when you consider how important maple syrup is to the Vermont economy, producing almost half of the entire United States output of the stuff in 2010 [Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund 2012]:
Throughout Vermont’s history, maple syrup has been an important staple, providing a natural sweetener as well as an additional source of income for many farms. First introduced to the earliest settlers from Native Americans, generations of Vermonters have passed down the art of sugar making. Each year, well before the first signs of spring, families with small sugar shacks and commercial-scale producers have tapped groves of maple trees (i.e., sugar bushes) in preparation for winter’s end. Warm days in Vermont mean muddy roads and sugar on snow – an annual culinary tradition of hot maple syrup and a bowl of snow, served with a pickle and cider donut. [Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund 2012].
The hot maple syrup on snow thing sounds intriguing.  The pickle? I guess it's a New England thing.

In their 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late [2009], Roadfoodies Jane and Michael Stern highlight "maple desserts" as one of their favorite things to find in northern New England.  In first looking it up I thought it was actually a dish called "Maple Dessert".  No, just an overarching term for desserts made with maple syrup: cakes, cookies, and yes, pies.  They gush, as is their style, about a maple cream pie from a humble restaurant in Montpelier:
Maple cream pie at the Wayside Restaurant and Bakery near Montpelier, Vermont, is a Yankee powerhouse!  It isn't dramatic to see - just a modest wedge with an amber filling below a browned crust mottled with sweet cream.  The dairy infusion tempers the maple's punch; the flavor is intensely woodsy, pure country [Stern and Stern 2009: 43-44; link added by me].
They never say, but I assume the recipe they give on page 44 of their book is the Wayside's recipe.  I was surprised to find ground black pepper in it as well - just a little.  It also cuts the strength of the maple syrup just enough to make it surprisingly mellow.

The Recipe: Maple Cream Pie

For the 500 Things to Eat recipe for maple cream pie you will need the following:

* all-purpose flour (again, all I had on hand was a softer Southern flour, but note that actual Yankees will use something heartier than White Lily)
* maple syrup (well duh.  I had half a bottle on hand, so I knew that would not suffice for the amount I needed for this pie.  I bought a second bottle of Grade A Amber at Harris Teeter - no Grade B in sight, though this darker version is loved by many maple syrup connoisseurs; a description of the difference here at the Baking Bites blog from 2009 - for about $5.  It bears the "Made in New England" label, so there's at least a 50-50 shot that this is from Vermont.  The maple syrup I had on hand was Canadian.  Note: Though half of all US maple syrup is from Vermont, 80% of the world's maple syrup is from Canada, most of that from Québec [Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund 2012])
* eggs (had on hand)
* black pepper (this was surprising.  I used a mortar and pestle so mine is not finely ground, and it shows in the finished product)
* heavy whipping cream (left over from that Famous Green Jell-O recipe from Utah)
* pie crust (I thawed some out that I had left over from Trader Joe's, but to make a long story short, the crust didn't do too well during pre-baking.  I had to buy another one in a jif from Giant for about $3.50)

Empty your eggs in a bowl.

Cream the eggs with the flour until blended.

While doing so, add your black pepper...

Your maple syrup...

And your heavy whipping cream.  Mix until blended.  I had a bit of trouble doing this since I was taking all these photos.

Pour into a semi-pre-baked and partially cooled pie shell, 10" pie plate preferably though all I had was 9 1/2", which you recently took out of that 350° oven that is still set to that temperature.

Bake at 350° for 40 minutes (with my narrower, deeper pie shell I had to leave it in for about another 15 to 20 minutes).

Let cool, and serve cold or at room temperature, preferably with some whipped cream on top.

Yep, that's a wicked fine pie, alright!  As noted above, the ultra sweetness of the maple syrup is tamed a good deal by the cream and to a lesser extent the black pepper.  This is a good use for all that leftover maple syrup you might have laying around.  I think I prefer it cold, but try it both ways for yourself and see which way you prefer it.


Cabot Cheese Cooperative.  "Apple, Cranberry and Cheddar Muffins ".  Copyright 2012.

Cabot Cheese Cooperative.  "The History of the World's Best Cheddar".  Copyright 2012.

Nicole (blogger, Baking Bites). "Grade A Maple Syrup vs Grade B"  Posted February 13, 2009.  Copyright 2012 Baking Bites.  All rights reserved.

Stern, Jane & Michael.  500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late.  Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2009.

Traditional.  "An Old Yankee Poem".  Date unknown.  Reprinted from The Heart of New England: Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont website.  Date unknown.

Vermont Cheese Council.  "Home page".  Copyright 1996-2011 Vermont Cheese Council.  All rights reserved.

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.  "Analysis of Vermont's Food System - 3.3 Food Production: Maple Syrup".  Prepared by Scott Sawyer, Ellen Kahler, and Kit Perkins.  Copyright 2012 Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.  All rights reserved.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Vermont" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Vermont".


Pam said...

Hi John! I'm so glad to find your great blog! I love maple syrup and have to try this pie soon. I was looking around and saw that you posted my creamed corn recipe in May. Glad you liked it and thanks for the nod!