A look across the pond to St Albans' sister city in Vermont
PUBLISHED: 15:50 05 August 2015 | UPDATED: 15:50 05 August 2015
Photo courtesy of Sarah Parsons West
There are towns and cities called St Albans in Australia, Canada and in five different locations across the United States. In the first of an occasional series, we link up with the Herts Advertiser's counterpart at the St Albans Messenger in Vermont
Life is sweet in St Albans’ sister city across the pond - the ‘Maple Syrup Capital of the World’ in Vermont.
The Herts Advertiser has established links with its counterpart, the St. Albans Messenger newspaper in St Albans, northeastern United States, to share information about culture, tourism and life in general.
Like the Herts Ad, which this year celebrates its 160th anniversary, the St Albans Messenger is also steeped in history – 1861 marks the start of publication of local daily news for “Vermonters”.
The papers’ relationship was strengthened recently with a visit by Messsenger reporter Sarah Parsons West whose husband, Chris West, has dual citizenship in Britain and America. His father, Antony West, attended St Albans School.
The reporter has written several stories about our St Albans, highlighting local attractions including the Abbey – which she described as “the most outstanding landmark”, along with the Clock Tower, and this city’s historic pubs and parks.
St Albans in Vermont shares many ties with its British namesake.
Both locations host regular farmers’ markets and have similar demographics.
Civil Wars feature prominently too, with St Albans boasting battlefields linked to the Wars of the Roses, while over in Vermont, the St Albans Raid, known as the northernmost incident of the American Civil War, occurred on October 19, 1864, when a band of Confederate rogues stormed the town, robbing banks and setting fire to prominent buildings.
The raid is commemorated annually, with re-enactments and activities to remember its place in the Civil War.
Recipe courtesy of the St Albans Messenger’s 2015 Maple Festival feature
2½ cups pinot noir or other light, fruity red wine
¾ cup Vermont maple syrup, preferably grade B
½ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise pods
4 firm pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, peeled and cored
Place wine, maple syrup, sugar in a large pot with the cinnamon stick and star anise pods and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer, add the pears and cover, cooking for about 6 minutes.
If pears were not submerged, turn pears and continue cooking, covered, for an additional 6-10 minutes.
Cook until pears are easily pierced with a fork.
Remove pears with a slotted spoon and cook liquid until reduced by half.
Serve pears with ice cream or whipped cream, spooning the reduced liquid over the pears.
But what really puts our sister city on the map is its famous, and tasty, maple syrup.
While both are considered tourist towns, across the pond, St Albans is renowned for being the maple syrup capital of the world and Vermont hosts an annual Maple Festival every April to celebrate the seasonal harvest.
Sarah explains that, with the arrival of spring, gallons of crystal clear sap are collected from the Sugar Maple and Red Maple trees around Vermont, by the hundreds of thousands.
The Maple Festival usually marks the end of the sugaring season.
Sarah explains: “When daytime temperatures reach 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 C) with the night air remaining below freezing, (-3 C is ideal) full-time sugar makers, and syrup enthusiasts alike, begin tapping their trees and ensuring sap lines are clear and ready for the sap to run.
“As the trees are warmed, the starch stored within the trunk again becomes sugar, and mixing with ground water, the sap is formed.”
Vermont sugar makers vary from the part-time hobbyist with a single bucket on a backyard tree to the retail ‘kings’, with hundreds of thousands of tapped trees on their properties.
Maple trees are tapped and used to collect sap – plastic tubes connected to them can form a vast network sometimes miles long.
This clear sap is boiled to 219 degrees F (104 C), eliminating the remaining water until the sugar content of the sap averages 66.9 percent.
The syrup is then filtered, graded, and prepared for packaging.
Plenty to entertain at the vacationer’s dream
Described in tourist brochures as a “vacationer’s dream”, the town of St Albans in Vermont is located in the northwest part of Franklin County, on the shores of Lake Champlain.
It surrounds the City of St Albans, and is about 80 miles south of Montreal, Canada.
For visitors, there is plenty of recreational fun on offer, including three Vermont state parks for camping, fishing and boating.
St Albans Town is home to Hard’Ack, an outdoor area that includes downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding, sledding, athletic fields and wilderness trails.
St Albans Messenger reporter Sarah Parsons West said that it was normal to see dogs accompany people around town, including into banks and certain shops, where treat baskets were available. Hard’Ack even has a dog park for social interaction between canines.
St Albans City, the Maple Syrup Capital of the World, hosts the annual Vermont Maple Festival.
As it is a statewide event, residents and visitors pour into the city for the three-day celebration which includes a parade, contests for the best maple syrup, cooking and talent, comedy and craft shows, a pancake-breakfast, carnival rides and of course, lots of syrup-based goodies.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the event, with the festival being held from April 22-24.
St Albans has its own brewery, 14th Star, named for Vermont’s position entering into the union. Downtown St Albans, described as picturesque by Sarah, boasts eateries, boutiques and salons.
During the autumn months, the Maple trees and other foliage are on display, attracting visitors from all over the country and beyond.
To find out more about St Albans in Vermont, see: vtmaplefestival.org, stamuseum.org, www.samessenger.com