The Sweet Life
The little sugarhouse chuffs out steam through a vent at the top. In front of it, neat stacks of locust and poplar logs stand ready to be fed into the fire that fuels the evaporator inside. Wheeler Munroe emerges from the sugarhouse wearing waterproof boots, jeans, and a T-shirt, despite the February chill at 3,400 feet on an Ashe County mountainside. The temperature inside the sugarhouse (where she’s spending most of the day) is downright tropical, with moisture hanging in the air and puddling on the floor. It’s all part of the process of creating maple syrup at Waterfall Farm, a venture she shares with her dad, Doug.
While this sort of scene is common in New England, it’s practically one-of-a-kind this far south, where sugar maples are at the southernmost reach of their range. But in this little corner of North Carolina—about 30 minutes north of Boone in what are called the Amphibolite Mountains—the soil, rainfall, and elevation combine to make a healthy habitat for them. People around here have been backyard sugaring for generations, Doug Munroe says. But few have tried to turn it into a business as he and his daughter have. Then again, the Munroes have never shied from a challenge. Read more here.
Better With Age
“You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese,” Anthony Bourdain wrote in his 2010 book Medium Raw. That may be the case for most cheesemakers, but Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery’s Victor Chiarizia says he got into it for a different reason. A studio glass artist for over 40 years, he started pondering the prospects of “a normal income” around 2007, he says, and the idea of making cheese appealed to him.
A first-generation Italian American, Chiarizia had made cheese before with his father, a native of the Italian province of Molise, where there’s a long cheesemaking tradition. When he first started thinking about it, Chiarizia says, goat cheese was taking off in Western North Carolina, but no one was really making aged cow’s milk cheeses. Read more here.