Saturday, March 21, 2009

Maple Syrup Outings

Hmmh - Maple Syrup Season
It's this time of the year when you are heading out to the sugar bush...
For many visitors to Canada, it is something uniquely Canadian. For those of us fortunate enough to live here, it's still special.
Last Sunday I went with friends to the only one that is located in the down town core, right here in Ottawa, just 2 minutes from busy 4-lane Montreal Road, at the Richelieu Park, home to North America's only urban sugar bush where I took the images above.

Visiting a sugar bush or sugar shack is a great experience: the country air, the folk music, the friendly workers’ know-how and a delicious meal aka: traditional comfort food ...

Enjoy the maple syrup season in any of these Canadian provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec or Ontario.

Janice Kennedy's "Maple hot spots", at the Ottawa Citizen from March 14, 2009:
Sucrerie de la Montagne is about a 90-minute drive from Ottawa.
Take the 417 east and, shortly after crossing into Quebec, take Exit 9 to Rigaud. Turn right on to Rte 342, then right on to Rte 325. Shortly after Mont-Rigaud ski hill, turn left on to rang St-Georges. The Sucrerie is nearly five kilometres down this road, well-marked on the left.

Chef's Nights at Sugar Moon Farm, Earltown, Nova Scotia
North of Truro on HWY 311, between Trans Canada HWY No 4 and the Tatamagouche Bay. Guest chefs from throughout the Maritimes fire up their imaginations at this working maple farm to create multi-course gourmet dinners highlighting the magic of maple. Skiing and snowshoeing; brunch complete with maple cocktails.

Festival beauceron de l'érable, Beauce region, Quebec
Now in its 20th year, this festival south of Quebec City recreates the spirit of earlier times, drawing about 50,000 annually." March 18 to 22.HWY 173 south of Quebec City towards the US.
At this low-key cabane (HWY 158, 30 minutes northwest of Montreal), food is the highlight, not a frill. The pancakes come with all the fixings: ketchup aux fruits, cretons (pork spread), oreilles de crisse (the infamous pork rinds) and tarte au sucre - all homemade.

Wheelers' Maple Heritage Museum, Lanark Highlands, Ontario
Set on a 295-hectare forest (about a 65-minute drive west of Ottawa, just SW of Carlton Place, next to Trans Canada HWY 7), Wheelers holds the largest collection of maple-syrup-related artifaces in North American, including a century-old sugar shack, boiling kettles and a set of production equipment and tools.

More than 30 venues, including wineries, restaurants and food producers, participate in this self-guided tour." March 28 and 29; about a three-hour drive from Ottawa, south of HWY 401, exit Picton or Belleville.

How it all began:
Native Canadians were the first to recognize the maple sap as a source of energy and nutrition after long winters. They used their tomahawks to make v-shaped incisions in the trees and inserted concave pieces of bark to run the sap into buckets made from birch bark. The sap was only slightly concentrated by adding hot stones in the bucket. It was a sweet drink or used in cooking. Later they used clay pots to boil maple sap over fire. In the early days of colonization Natives showed French settlers how to tap the trunk of a tree at the outset of spring, harvest the sap and boil it to evaporate some of the water. It became an integral part of colony life and during the 17th and 18th centuries, syrup was a source of pure sugar and much needed vitamins to survive.

Warm sunny days (above 40º F) and frosty nights are ideal for sap flow.The maple season in March and April lasts about 4 to 6 weeks. The harvest season ends with the arrival of warm spring nights and early bud development in the trees. 30-50 gallons of sap are evaporated to make one gallon of syrup. Maple Syrup contains Carbohydrates, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Thiamin and Riboflavin.

Not only delicious, but healthy too!