by Alice Levitt
Fruit fans may have tasted berries from Springfield's Cherry Hill Farm, owned by the Hingston family, without even knowing it. The business supplies raspberries and red and black currants to regional food makers including Vermont Mystic Pie Company and Walpole Creamery.
The Hingston clan also produces a product line called Vicky Day's Preserves, and sells the spreads at loads of southern Vermont natural food stores, as well as Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier and Healthy Living Natural Foods Market in South Burlington.
Now, fans of vitamin-rich currants can get them in liquid form. In June, Cherry Hill Farm shipped its first bottles of Just So Vermont, black currant juice spiked with lime. Honor Hingston says that her father, Peter, began to develop the tipple this April as a non-alchoholic alternative to cassis, which Putney Mountain Winery already makes from the farm's fruit. "My father wanted it to taste rich and serious and look like a grown-up drink," says Hingston, but he didn't want it to be too sweet.
When her family offered sips of the drink at farmers' markets earlier in the season, "It actually stopped people cold," says Hingston. She adds that despite the strong, slightly syrupy taste, "even little kids try it and like it." She attributes that partly to the fact that the beverage includes lime juice — its only non-local ingredient. "It has that Sour Patch thing going for it," Hingston says.
The local focus was partly what gave the sip its name. Just So Vermont — as in Just Southern Vermont. But, the name also refers to the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Why? Like the beverage, the author was semi-local, living for a time in a Dummerston home he called Naulakha. The drink's label features Bagheera from Kipling's The Jungle Book.
Black currant and lime is the only flavor available right now, but Hingston hopes that by next season, Just So Vermont will offer currant drinks flavored with the farm's own raspberries or mint.
Want to try it? Just So Vermont is being mixed into cocktails at the Inn at Weathersfield. It's also for sale by the bottle at southern Vermont farmers markets and co-ops, including Springfield Co-op, Your Farm in Fairlee and Upper Valley Food Co-op in White River Junction, VT. Want to stay closer to home? It's at Hunger Mountain Co-op, too.
Food fun at the Floating Bridge
Hardwick seems to get all of the attention for its buzzing agricultural scene, but it's not the only small Vermont town with nearly as many food producers as people. The Floating Bridge Food and Farm Cooperative, based in Brookfield (half-an-hour south of Montpelier) boats 15 farms, cheese makers and restaurants. This Saturday, the Cooperative will hold its first annual Brookfield Market Day.
From 2 to 5 p.m., the Floating Bridge Farmer’s Market will feature fare from all 15 members of the organization. Look for products from Green Mountain Girls Farm, All Together Farm, Sweet Roots Farm, Brotherly Farm, Fat Toad Farm and Buck Farm. The offerings run the gamut from meat to cheese, veggies, maple products and honey.
Jane Doerfer, a cookbook author and owner of Green Trails Inn, will hold cooking classes at 2 and 3:30 that afternoon. Those too, will utilize produce from association members. Of course, attendees will be hungry by then. There will be a barbecue, too, with local chicken, veggies and baked goods for $10 a plate. Hungry for more? Folks can head to Ariel's Restaurant, where chef Lee Duberman always uses whatever is tasty from nearby farms that day.