A visit to a sugar shack
Sugar maple trees grow across a large swath of Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern US. And sugar making operations can be found from Nova Scotia to Minnesota. In the spring, the maple sap is tapped from these trees and boiled down at a ratio of forty to one to produce pure maple syrup.
Some property owners, with maple woodlots, enjoy the springtime ritual of making maple syrup to share with family and friends. But if you don’t happen to know someone with a sugar bush, then visit one of the many commercial operators that welcome the public. Brunches at a rustic sugar shack or cabane à sucre are a spring ritual that celebrates one of the region’s food treasures.
If you’re looking to buy some locally produced syrup or wish to visit a maple sugar operation, you’ll find more from these excellent resources:
- Bonjour Quebec
- State of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup
- New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association
- Sweet Ontario
Traditional vs commercial methods
Methods used for maple syrup production range from traditional to modern or a hybrid of the two. Small family run sugar shacks may tend to use traditional methods by collecting from trees tapped with pales followed by sap evaporation over wood fires. This will often impart a natural woody, sometimes slightly smoky flavour. Modern commercial operations usually tap trees using pipelines, then use reverse osmosis to concentrate the sap and then evaporate using gas heating.
Like in wine making, a good year of maple syrup production depends alot on the climate. The ideal conditions for a good sap run are daytime highs that are a little above the freezing point and nights just below it. Ideal weather conditions in 2022 translated to the best year for syrup production on record according to Statistics Canada and USDA data.
COMMERCIAL MAPLE SYRUP PRODUCTION IN 2022
- Quebec, 72.3 million litres
- Vermont, 9.6 million litres
- New Brunswick, 3.7 million litres
- Ontario, 2.7 million litres
How maple syrup is graded
There are grades of maple syrup ranging from light to dark. Similar to how olive oil is graded, the extra-light is the first to be produced and is considered by the aficionados to be the finest grade. It is very smooth going down and has no after taste. As the season progresses, the syrup turns amber, and the taste is a little heavier. At the end of the run, the syrup gets dark, and the taste is harsher. This grade is not so common and could be described as a bit like a woody molasses.
Recipes made with maple syrup
Whether you have traditional or commercially produced syrup, you’ll want to try any or all of these delicious recipes.
Making pancakes from scratch really is no more complicated than making them from a boxed mix. They’re even better topped with pure maple syrup.
The basic crêpe recipe is very simple but making them requires some technique. Choose a variety of sweet or savory fillings and toppings.
Pumpkin is cooked in vegetable broth and given a flavour boost with garlic, onion, ginger, maple and an Indian spice blend.
Salmon fillet baked with pecans and a maple butter glaze with a little mustard and soy sauce for the perfect flavour balance.
A traditional French Canadian dessert consisting of a simple cake baked in a maple syrup sauce.
This autumn favourite is made with traditional foods of Canada’s First Nations People including pure maple syrup.
This healthy salad is tossed with with walnut oil, the aromatic soft crunch of almonds and the natural sweetness of maple.
Navy beans are slow cooked with pure maple syrup, bacon and onion in this traditional recipe right from the sugar shack.
Amp up your homemade pancakes with a superfood that’s packed with nutrition and numerous health benefits.
Did you make any of these recipes?
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