Sara Holmes and her family are Chester County locals, with family ties to the forests in Northeastern Pennsylvania. This past year, Sara, along with her husband Kyle, began bottling their syrup and selling it at local farmers markets. The community became such loyal enthusiasts for the Whiskey Hollow products, they encouraged Sara and Kyle to sell their syrup at Kimberton Whole Foods. We’re proud to add this local product to our shelves. You can now find Whiskey Hollow’s regular, vanilla infused and cinnamon infused Pennsylvania Maple Syrup at all stores and both Tangy and Hot Mustard with Maple Syrup at select locations.
We asked Sara a few questions about their new family business and how their environmentally responsible practices differentiate them from the competition.
What makes maple syrup a superior sweetener? Maple syrup contains several different minerals not found in other common sweeteners: riboflavin, manganese, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium to name a few. It also contains phenolic compounds which are found in berries, tea, red wine, and flax seed. Unlike many sweeteners on the market, maple syrup does not contain any additives or preservatives. I love knowing that there is absolutely nothing else in my sweetener than what the tree gave me.
What makes your product better than the rest? We find great importance in knowing where our food comes from. Our customers can rest easy knowing that the syrup they are getting meets our high quality standards. We highly encourage an open dialogue with our customers about all aspects of the process – from tree health to bottling. The industry standard in the maple business is plastic jugs, but we knew right from the beginning this was something we would approach differently. Glass is not the cheaper way to go, but we feel strong enough about it to make that investment.
What types of sustainable practices do you use when tapping for syrup? Sugar bush (forest) health is of utmost importance to us or any producer. Our main goal is to provide a diverse woods. This means we don’t thin out the trees, keeping only the maples. We like to keep a variety of species to foster not only a healthy tree culture, but a haven for wildlife too. Many maple producers only keep the maples, which has the potential to be catastrophic if any type of disease or pest issue arises. When tapping trees in the spring, we take note to the health of each tree before we tap it. If any tree looks unhealthy, it gets passed over. Tree size is also an important factor, our trees are a minimum of 8″ in diameter before they receive a tap. Taps get pulled at the end of every season and the lines flushed to ensure bacteria does not enter the tree. When boiling the sap to make syrup, we do not use any type of commercial defoamer. Sap boils so hard it can create high levels of foam which hinder your boil, so many producers have an automatic defoaming dispenser. We keep a very close eye on it and find we hardly use any defoamer and when we do, we use an organic approved method – a drop of safflower oil.