Does Vermont Make the Finest Organic Maple Syrup in the Country?

Close-up of pouring organic maple syrupThe state of Vermont has been synonymous with maple syrup for hundreds of years, and rightfully so. The small state generates just around 35 percent of the country’s supply, and around 8 percent of the world’s supply. Their climate, soil conditions, and dense concentration of maple trees (the highest in the United States), are three reasons why it is the country’s most ideal location for producing the best maple syrup.

The season of maple syrup production in Vermont spans from February, when sugarhouses set up for the sugaring season, until Spring, which is so frequently muddy from all of the melting snow and ice that Vermonters joke that they have five seasons—the fifth one being “Mud Season”. On a good year for maple syrup production, the snow has melted, the ground has thawed, and millions of gallons of water have been absorbed by the maple trees (the most important aspect of sap production). Forests that are primarily sugar maple trees, known as sugarbushes, have a system of pipelines connected to each tree tap that allows the sap to flow directly to the sugarhouse, where it is boiled down—a far cry from the days when carrying small buckets back and forth was a necessity. Vermont sugarhouses are known for producing high quality products, and with growing numbers of artisans getting into the maple syrup industry, the options for consumers today are plentiful. One reason why so many people prefer Vermont maple syrup is because Vermont law prohibits the use of any additives and preservatives, and they also have many organic maple syrup choices for the particularly health conscious.

Coombs Family Farms has been producing some of the best Vermont organic maple syrup and organic maple products for over seven generations, which is why they are highly regarded in the industry. They have perfected the art of making maple syrup, and it shows. Whether you choose to buy natural maple syrup through them, or other reputable artisan Vermont sugarhouses, you can rest assured that you are getting the highest quality

New Maple Syrup Grades: Is Grade B Being Eliminated from the Market?

breakfast pancakes and maple syrupThis year, the new international standards for grading maple syrup will slowly go into effect, and Grade B will cease to exist as “Grade B”. Before you panic, you can rest assured that you will still be able to purchase this popular dark syrup, only it will have a different name: Grade A Very Dark. In addition to the name change, there will be a slight increase in cost, which will be disheartening to Grade B maple syrup fans who have always appreciated its cheaper cost in comparison to the rest of the maple syrup grades.

The new maple syrup grades were created with the intent to create one easy-to-understand international system. All of the maple syrup grades will be Grade A pure maple syrup, with four different identifying varieties: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. By placing all maple syrup varieties under the same grade, those in the maple syrup industry hope to eliminate consumer confusion and also equalize pricing amongst all maple syrup grades. It will help the public even more that the same grading standards will apply to maple syrup from both the United States and Canada, whose different grading systems have long been hard to decipher.

If you’ve always been a Grade B maple syrup enthusiast, rest assured that it will still be available for you to buy; it will simply be under a different name. If you want to escape the impending price increase, you might want to start stocking up on Grade B maple syrup before the new grades hit the shelves.

The Various Types Of Lactose Free Cheese

Lactose Free American Cheese SlicesDue to health reasons, some people must consume lactose free cheese. Sometimes called milk sugar, lactose is present in all dairy products, including yogurt, cream, milk, and ice cream. A naturally occurring digestive enzyme, lactase, is required to digest this food properly. Lactase breaks down the complex sugar into galactose and glucose, which can then be absorbed into the bloodstream to produce bursts of energy.

Intolerance to lactose is rather common, and tends to affect males and females equally. Sometimes, as people age, their bodies produce lower levels of lactase, which causes increasing sensitivities to dairy products. Symptoms may include rumbling sounds in the stomach, flatulence, pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

During the cheese-making process, the curds and whey are separated. Whey generally contains more lactose than the curds. As a result, the softer varieties, such as brie and mozzarella, contain more whey and have higher levels of milk sugar.

The harder, drier varieties, such as cheddar and Parmesan, are aged for longer periods of time, contain less whey, and have naturally lower concentrations of dairy sugar. The types with negligible levels of lactose include Parmigiano-Reggiano (aged one to two years), Grana Padano (aged up to 20 months), Mimolette (aged about 22 months), and Romano (a Gouda-type cheese which is aged for three to four years).

For those who wish to eliminate this type of dairy sugar from their diets completely, there are several cheese alternatives. Among the vegan options are cheeses crafted from soy, rice, and almonds. Soy varieties have no casein (a type of dried milk protein) in their ingredients. Rather, the dominant ingredients are soybean oil as well as soy proteins. The typical flavor options include Parmesan, cheddar, nacho, and mozzarella. It is often packaged in slices, chunks, or grated.

While some cheeses which are crafted from rice incorporate the non-vegan ingredient, casein, many do not. Most commonly, these blends are made from rice bran oil and rice flour. Their flavor options include American, pepper-jack, and cheddar. This variety is also pre-packaged as grated, sliced, or in blocks.

The almond alternatives are developed with almond milk rather than dairy milk. Usually, casein is incorporated into the production process, so this variety is not recommended for vegans. The major ingredients include brown rice flour, canola oil, crushed almonds, and water. Many prefer this type of substitute because its consistency is most similar to regular dairy cheeses. Common flavor options include jalapeno, mozzarella, and cheddar.

There are many types of lactose free cheese products which are safe to consume. Some health food bakeries offer a full range of safe alternatives that are free from soy, casein, and gluten. They contain no hydrogenated oils, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), cholesterol, or trans fats. However, they are rich in calcium. Options include slices with flavors similar to American, pepper-jack, and cheddar. Shredded varieties may resemble Mexican blends or mozzarella. In addition, alternatives to cream cheese are often available in classic plain, as well as chive and garlic flavors. With the wide range of healthy options available in the marketplace, it is easy to discover foods which are both safe to consume and delicious.