It’s only May and already 2017 is looking like a banner year for the Vermont Switchel Company.
Our year began with a trek around Kenya including tea country , extinct volcanoes, and Laikipia County. We spent our days walking along side our pack camels and nights singing around the fire with our Samburru friends. Vermont Switchel kept us hydrated despite the parching dusty heat of the savannah. Vermont Switchel gave us the energy to ascend Mt Satima (13, 127). And it slaked out thirst when mixed with a little Tusker Lager for an ourstanding Kenyan Shandy while kicking back along the shores of Lake Naivasha.
Inspired by the Kenyan teas we are going to look at a new formula with half switchel and half tea much like an Arnold Palmer although maybe it would have to be called the Jomo Kenyatta.
Upon our return it was right into the business of tapping trees and boiling sap into the wee hours! Cedric said we missed the first run but we caught the best part of the season and made some beautiful syrup which is the foundation of switchel.
Cyber Monday (or any day for that matter) is why we developed the Vermont Switchel Concentrate: it has a lower carbon footprint due to minimal packaging and weight, reduced shipping cost, the mason jar is reusable, one pint makes 16 servings, and it is made with ethically harvested ingredients that are good and good for you. No artificial flavors under our cap! AVAILABLE ONLY ON-LINE!
There is much to learn from Theodor Geisel (aka Dr Seuss) who pennedThe Grinch Who Stole Christmas. His story of joy found in giving and receiving and the way it bonds us creating memories and traditions to savor is compelling.
However, Annie Leonard’sThe Story of Stuff provides us with a grim counterpoint to that sugar coated version of unchecked consumption. She makes us think twice before filling our shopping carts with “stuff” we really don’t need or want in order to fulfill an “obligation” or “tradition” to exchange holiday gifts.
Somewhere in between the two is where we find balance in sharing the joy of giving and being good stewards of the planet as well. We like to think of it as “consumable consumerism”. Gifts that are part of our holiday celebration and traditions that do not place excess pressure on dwindling resources, provide joy to the recipient, and have a net benefit because they don’t end up in the landfill and we need them for our health and welfare.
So think food, beverages, candles, seeds, compost, shares in a CSA, edible art, and natural fiber clothing. Add to that list gifts that require little or reusable packaging.
What we See: the leaves have let go and the ground is buried under a carpet of orange, red, and yellow. We can see so much further walking through the woods. The snow on Mt Mansfield and the bare branches below it make up the horizon.
What we Hear: At dawn, it’s the honking of a gaggle of geese lifting off the pond in unison leaving us for the lower latitudes. At dusk, we hear the breeze rustling through the dried corn stalks still standing in the field.
What we Smell: Wood smoke rising from the chimney tinges the air, the moist leaf litter slowly decaying, and the sweetness of apples naturally fermenting on the ground in the orchard.
What we Feel: the cool slate floor in the morning while putting on the tea kettle reminds us it’s time to bring out the slippers and the crisp air now requires a sweater to take the food scraps out to the compost heap.
What we Taste: A mug of hot switchel with a smidge of cinnamon warms hands and heart as we open the door to trick-or-treaters (rum optional!)
We are often ask what makes Vermont Switchel a healthy natural energy beverage? Is it the maple syrup? Is it the apple cider vinegar? Is it the organic blackstrap molasses? the ginger root or the lemon juice? And the answer is “F, all of the above”. There is not a wasted calorie or ingredient in our bottles with each ingredient having a nutritional profile that contributes to its overall “swellness”. Check out what Cheryl Wischhover has to say about us at: http://nymag.com/thecut/swellness/2016/07/apple-cider-vinegar-switchel-benefits.html
What do you fret about when preparing to board a flight? Long lines, slow TSA service, 3-oz bottles, removing belts and shoes, computers in a separate tray? We wish we could assuage those concerns but that is well above our pay grade. However, American Airlines offers you an opportunity to chill out on the flight once you get settled in. They love our switchel and wrote about it in their current back-of-the-seat magazine. Our liquid concentrate, pictured in the article, is capturing the hearts and taste buds of travelers and orders are coming in from all of those airport cities where American Airlines operates! Now all we have to do is get them to sell it in flight so you stay hydrated while flying high in the skies!
Vermont Switchel: slake your thirst!
We at the Vermont Switchel Works are taking REIs advice to heart and not only are we opting out of shopping Black Friday we are taking it way outside to the Himalayas for a little trekking! We suggest you do the same and #optoutside; just take along some Vermont Switchel as you hike, bike, ski, ride, surf, or stroll! Of course, you can then complete your holiday shopping on Cyber Monday as our crew will be back at the Switchel Works to fill you orders. Shipping is always included so no figuring out rates and there isn’t a US zip code we cannot accommodate.
If all goes well we will be toasting our successful trek by sipping switchel atop Thorong La sometime around December 8th!
Until then we are giving thanks for the land that sustains us, the community that supports us, and the good fortune of time off with family!
Susan Alexander pours a measure of commercial-grade maple syrup as she makes Switchel, the traditional farmer’s field drink, at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. / GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS
Susan Alexander pours out a measure of commercial-grade maple syrup as she makes Switchel, the traditional farmer’s field drink, at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. / GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS
HARDWICK — We might not quite have reached the peak of summer temperatures yet, but we’ll get to those days when the sticky heat weighs so heavily that it can only be relieved by a leap into the lake, a favorite swimming hole, or a tall icy glass of your favorite, thirst-quenching beverage.
Even better if that drink is sweetened with Vermont maple or honey, or flavored with syrup crushed from Vermont-grown fruits. Cheers to a Green Mountain summertime!
Vermont Switchel: Refreshing tradition
When Susan Alexander travels around the state introducing potential customers to Vermont Switchel, she gets varied reactions to her slightly modernized, bottled version of the old-fashioned drink distinctively flavored with cider vinegar, molasses, maple and ginger.
“Some people say, ‘I have to buy this for my grandfather. He talks about it all the time,’” Alexander explained during a recent production shift at the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) where she has mixed and bottled her switchel for just over a year.
“Other people don’t want anything to do with it. They’ll say their mother or grandmother used to make them drink it on the farm,” she continued. “Even when I tell them that I’ve cranked down the apple cider vinegar and it’s probably a bit sweeter than the one they remember, they don’t want to try it.”
Then, of course, there are many who have no idea what the drink is, so Alexander explains that switchel’s acidic, refreshing qualities made it a staple of hot summer hayfields when all hands were called on deck to make hay while the sun shone.
“Back then, it was more a medicinal tonic. They drank it to prevent dehydration,” Alexander explained. “They didn’t have Gatorade.”
In the 1963 classic “Yankee Hill-Country Cooking,” author Beatrice Vaughan of East Thetford offered her recipe for switchel and wrote, “My grandfather always said that nothing quenched a man’s thirst or cooled his dusty throat in haying time so well as this homely drink.”
For Alexander herself, it was “love at first sip” after she was introduced to switchel through her husband Cedric Alexander’s family, which boasts seven generations of Vermont farmers.
Twenty-seven years ago I first tried Grampie’s switchel made by my sister-in-law,” Alexander recalled. “I thought, ‘That’s exactly what we should be drinking.’ It’s light and crisp and healthy. I said, ‘Someday I’m going to bottle this.’”
She quickly outgrew her Cabot kitchen and started using the VFVC, renting the space by the day and taking advantage of the expertise of Connor Gorham, the center’s professional production assistant, who was helping her brew and bottle a 140-gallon batch a few weeks ago.
The production room was fragrant with the deep-edged sweetness of dark maple and molasses, pureed ginger and the bright, sharp scent of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. Currently, Alexander uses Vermont maple from Butternut Mountain and is looking for consistent, affordable sources of local apple cider vinegar and even ginger.
A soil scientist by training, the beverage entrepreneur still works part-time in her original field as she builds her fledgling business. In May, Alexander was one of the first 20 Vermont companies awarded a Vermont Working Lands grant to help keep land in agriculture or forestry use. She plans to use the $15,000 grant to purchase a new bottler that will allow her to increase daily production output from 1,400 bottles to more than 4,000.
Demand at this point is exceeding supply, Alexander said. In addition to drinking switchel straight, she suggests mixing it with seltzer, as she does. A number of customers have also shared recipes for creative cocktails using switchel as a base, she said.
She is working on developing a five-gallon bag (think wine-in-a-box) and also a concentrate for special events and foodservice customers for added flexibility and cost-efficiency. She’d love to see it everywhere, she said, from schools to hospitals.
If Alexander has her way, a whole new generation of Vermonters will know what switchel is — and all of them will fall in love with it as she has.
WHERE TO BUY:
Vermont Switchel is available at a variety of local and independent markets including Healthy Living, City Market, Natural Provisions and Beverage Warehouse in the Burlington area. For more information, go to vtswitchel.com.
Partial funding for development of this website made possible by a Rural Business Enterprise Grant through the Northern Community Investment Corporation from USDA Rural Development.