Eric and Sonja Withington are returning to their roots.
Eric grew up sugaring with his uncle in his hometown of Barnard. Thousands of miles away in Austria, Sonja spent her childhood foraging fresh greens, flowers, berries, and herbs to create herbal teas, syrups, and home remedies with her family.
Last year, the couple combined their two passions and launched Silver Lake Syrups in Barnard.The family’s maple syrup comes from trees tapped on and near their three-acre property, located down the road from the Barnard General Store. Their other syrups—spruce tip, elderflower, dandelion, and rhubarb—are from plants and greens the couple gathers with help from their two daughters, Kimberly and Britney.
In a new sugarhouse the Withingtons built near their home, the family is gearing up for Maple Open House Weekend, an annual Vermont event that takes place the third weekend in March. The Withingtons hope to be boiling sap over the weekend for visitors, and they’ll also have samples of syrup readily available.
If you stop by, make sure you try all of their syrups. After all, their motto is “More than Maple.”
More than Maple: Syrups from Trees and Plants
Vermont is home to many maple syrup producers and is the nation’s leading maple-producing state.
The Withingtons love maple syrup. But they also want to stand out by offering something a little different. Besides maple syrup, here’s what they make:
Spruce Tip Syrup
This award-winning syrup, which won Best in Show at the Tunbridge World’s Fair, is made from hand-picked spruce tips—the new growth on spruce and balsam trees during the late spring months.
This syrup features a sweet, woodsy flavor and is an excellent addition to pancakes, tea, gin, ice-cream, and even pork chops. Spruce tips are also loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants, and I swear, it tastes like a tree in the best possible way.
This is a refreshing, concentrated syrup made from the blossoms of the elderflower. You can add a small spoonful of elderflower syrup to white wine, Prosecco, seltzer, or water. Elderflower syrup has a zesty fizz that is perfect for spring and summer.
Dandelion tastes sweet and is perfect for tea, coffee, or whisky. It’s a great substitute for molasses cookies (replace the molasses with dandelion syrup), and tastes so good over ice cream or pancakes. You know how it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup? It takes six handfuls of dandelion petals to make a worthwhile amount of dandelion syrup. But whatever it takes—it’s so good!
Rhubarb syrup is a delicious mixer for cocktails. Try a rhubarb Collins with gin, a rhubarb martini with vodka, or a rhubarb bourbon sour. Rhubarb syrup is also wonderful over pancakes, waffles, ice-cream, or oatmeal. My daughter has been pouring rhubarb syrup over vanilla ice cream and it’s her new favorite dessert—hands down.
Order From Silver Lake Syrups Online
If you’re going to miss Maple Open House Weekend, no worries. You can order Silver Lake Syrups online and try Sonja’s recipes. Since opening last year, the Withingtons have sold syrup to customers living as far away as Oregon and Colorado. They hope to keep growing.
For Eric, opening a sugarhouse is a dream come true. For Sonja, it’s a way to connect with her heritage.
“When I see people’s reaction when they taste my Spruce Tip, that’s the payment for me. It’s so worth it,” she says. “I didn’t value these things as a kid, and making these syrups now with my family keeps me going.”
Eric agrees. “It’s a win-win,” he says.
Lucky for us, the Withingtons are just getting started.