Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Highland County Maple Syrup

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Highland County Maple Festival. It began last weekend and continues this coming weekend. Highland County is just west of Augusta County but it's a world away from Staunton and the valley. With only 2500 people, it's Virginia's least populous county. The directions are easier than the actual driving over the mountains. Just take 64 west from Charlottesville to Staunton and then continue on 250 from there. After about an hour and a half of driving, McDowell appears around the bend. A full parking lot beside the Stonewall Ruritan Building heralds the countywide festivities. After the drive this place seems the most appropriate to eat the buckwheat pancakes and homemade sausages available at multiple venues. After filling up on the $7 meal, it's time for the real reason to make the trek. By continuing on 250 W through Monterey, eventually there is a sign pointing toward the maple tree farms. There are two in this area. The first is Rexrode's sugar orchard. The farm features some maple trees over 200 years old. There they use the old fashioned "open pan" system of evaporation with miles of plastic tubing collecting from the trees on the property. A supply of maple syrup is available in one of the buildings. Farther up 637 is Puffenbarger's sugar orchard. Prior to a fire in late February this place used reverse osmosis and oil-fired evaporators to produce its syrup. In the fire they lost about 700 gallons. Even so, they are still offereing maple syrup doughnuts. I never thought a pastry could be too sweet until I tried this dessert. It hasn't stopped the Puffenbargers from selling lots of the doughnuts.

1 comment:

shaun said...

As luck would have it...I'm actually from Highland County. :)