Have you ever had a traditional sugar shack meal while visiting the province of Quebec? You definitely must make it part of your next class trip with your students. Whether you are on a foreign language trip or just on a fun cultural discovery make sure to stop and have a meal at a ‘Cabane a Sucre’. A Sugar Shack as we say in english.
Where does the tradition of “les sucres”, as the French refer to it, come from? Quite simply it’s a seasonal event held in the spring when the maple trees start to ‘flow’.
After a long cold winter the trees start to emerge from their hibernation. Having shed their leaves in the fall they lay dormant. In spring they wake back up and their sap, their blood if you will, starts to flow to feed the branches and the buds that become the leaves.
This sap is quite a delicacy. But it is quite a process to get the sap to become maple syrup, maple sugar, taffy and best of all, maple butter.
First the sap must be collected. Years ago they would hammer little spigots and hooks. On these hooks little buckets would be hung and the sap would flow into these. Each day riders had to go through the forest and collect the sap from each bucket. Today they are systems of tubing that collect the sap.
Once all the buckets are collected they are emptied into a larger container and eventually they start the boiling process.
The sap is poured into what looks like a big long pan, with baffles and it is slightly inclined. The goal is to evaporate the water slowly and concentrate the sap into syrup, butter and taffy and other maple products.
Now get this. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. This is why it is so expensive but oh so good.
The sugar shack typical menu is : pea soup, omelette, ham, baked beans, pork rinds, roasted potatoes, sugar pies, homemade donuts, and more. Of course all with plenty of fresh maple syrup.
There’s music, folk dancing, sleigh rides and more to do making it a full french canadian cultural experience.
Make sure this very typical celebration of french canadian life is part of your next class trip to Montreal and Quebec City.