Monday, April 28, 2008

Sweet! Cabane à Sucre

Ah, Spring, when Quebecers thoughts turn to cabane à sucre.

With Canada producing about 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup, and the majority of that coming from us here in Quebec, it’s no wonder that Quebecers, young and old alike, keep up the tradition of flocking to countryside Sugar Shacks to get their fix of maple syrup during the sugaring off season.

While most of these establishments are massive tourist traps, where people pour in by the bus loads, it is still possible to have a more authentic experience. We met up with some friends last weekend at Cabane a Sucre Bouvrette to feast on traditional Québecois comfort food and get our fill of sugar.

It felt a bit like I was a kid back at summer camp again when I stepped into the bustling sugar shack. Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lamps, I saw rows and rows of long tables packed full of people, low wooden ceilings, and bright yellow curtains that gave the place a farmhouse kitchen feel. The place was toasty warm thanks to a roaring fire in a stone fireplace and smelled heavenly: like bacon, warm maple syrup and coffee.

This was no camp food, though, you could taste the love in the cooking.
Our menu:

Split Pea Soup (pictured above in a cheery red terrine)
Sausages cooked in syrup (hmm, let just call them hot dogs, OK?)
Roasted Potatoes

Baked Beans (in syrup, of course)
Maple smoked Ham
Pork Rinds (oreille de krisse)
Homemade Bread
Assorted Pickles Maison
Omelette (oven baked, laced with cinnamon, very nice)
Sugar Pie
Coffee, etc.

Of course, everything is covered in maple syrup before it is consumed. Maple syrup in coffee? Mmm, delicious.

I could have lingered long at the table for another cup of coffee and a round of pancakes, but Noah was itching to get outside and visit the 'attractions': a well-rounded petting zoo/small farm and a little train that wound it's way through the maple forest and tootled it's horn. So we left our sticky table and exited, blinking, into the bright sunshine.

However, the best was still to come as, after the requisite train ride and farm tour, we stopped off at a cute little red-roofed shack to sample some fresh maple taffy or Tire d'érable.
This delicacy is made by boiling maple syrup until it reduces slightly ( to a temperature of 234 degrees F, to be exact), and then pouring it over packed, clean snow. It rapidly hardens and a Popsicle stick is then used to lift it off the snow and to the mouth!
Watch the video to see the real deal. Yum!

Brandon, one of our friends we were with, declared that this insanely sweet confection was the real, if not only, reason he goes annually to a sugar shack. He certainly made the most of it too, consuming an impressive seven sticks of tire. That's probably the equivalent of at least 300ml of maple syrup, if not more.

I maxed out at three. Noah was allowed one, and he still had a decent sugar rush.

So there you have a Québec Cabane à Sucre experience in a nutshell!

If you are looking for a recipe with maple syrup, check out my all-time favorite: Pouding Chômeur.


Anonymous said...

That is so cool! Maple taffy hardening on the snow. Never seen that before!

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to do this. Your pictures are amazing.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

The first time my Montreal-born husband took me to a cabane a sucre, I had such a wonderful time! For some reason it was better than the sugaring houses here in New England.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Wow, that sounds like such a wonderful experience. I've read about it in books, but would love to be there in person.

Peter M said...

Oh c'mon Aimee...this is really a subliminal post to make us chant, "go Habs GO, Go Habs Go"! lol

Maple syrup is one of Canada's gifts to food...shout out for maple syrup!

Lynda said...

Hey that is very cool... and all sounds delicious!

Love the video.

Culinary Cowgirl said...

How fun! I will have to visit the area someday and experience it first hand. Thanks for sharing this sweet treat :)

Heidi Kärkkäinen said...

Seven? Oh my gosh, I'll take a bite of tire d'erable and I'm done! :D I also went to the Cabane à Sucre back in February and it was pretty cool. The peas with the suryp were surprisingly good, and maybe I should have tried the suryp with the pea soup... :D But man, was I suffering from a massive sugar and caffeine high afterwards!

Aimée said...

Hi dobetter- I had only read about it before moving here to Quebec.

Hi Michelle- Thanks! Come for a visit next spring!

Hi Lydia- I have never been in NE, so I can't compare, but they do a pretty good job here.

Hi Lynn- Did you read about it in Laura Ingalls? :)

Hi Peter- Hockey fever is here, alright, but it hasn't touched me yet!

Hi Lynda- Thanks! It's a first for video here, but not the last.

Hi Cowgirl- You'll have to come in early spring, it's not the prettiest time here, but that's when the sap flows!

Hi Punapaa- yep, the sugar high is second to none, unfortunately, so is the crash. I slept in the car the whole way home!

LyB said...

Aimée, that sounds like such a fun outing! I'm drooling over the list of wonderful things you ate!

winedeb said...

Aimee! What a wonderful day! And pouring the maple syrup in the snow! Too fun! Your photos are fantastic and tell a story in themselves!

Rachel@fairycakeheaven said...

My god I've wanted to try this ever since I read the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a little girl!!! Looks fantastic and so much fun!!!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Every Grade 2 child in Ontario has been on a class trip to the Sugar Shack. When I was a kid they would throw the syrup onto a pile of snow...instant taffy:D Certainly not as hygenic as it is today but such a special treat for a little kid:D

Michelle said...

That looks amazing - and I could actually eat something there! (since I don't eat pork) I'll have to try it out next year.

Marie Rayner said...

Wonderful post! Oh how I do miss sugaring time!

Rachel said...

That sounds wonderful! What a cool experience!

I want to tell you that I really enjoy reading your blog. I recieved a little blog award today called Blogging With A Purpose award and I am passing it along to you. I love that you are cooking for a little one, as I am too. What a challenge, huh? Anyways, you can check my blog to see what I said, and please pass on the award to someone that you feel deserves it.

Anonymous said...

What fun for Noah. A train ride, petting zoo, and loads of maple syrup all in one day!

RecipeGirl said...

This looks like such a unique experience. How lucky you are to have access to something so fun!

Anonymous said...

Sounds so nice and quaint. Reminds me of Little House on the Prairie. I would love to try it one day! I think I could eat 7 :).

Emily said...

I want to go to Canada and do this! I love maple syrup. I bet you get a really good deal on it. It's so expensive here.
Did you reek of maple syrup when you left the place?
I don't think "reek" is the right word. I love the smell of maple.

Aimée said...

Hi Lyb- A good time was had by all!

Hi Deb- Thanks, the place was pretty scenic, easy for the photographer!

Hi Rachel- I know what you mean-those books really bring the seasonal event to life.

Hi Val- It certainly is a dream outing for little kids. What? SUGAR shack? Yes please!

Hi Michelle- It's actually pretty close to Montreal, so that's nice.

Hi Marie- you'll have to come back to Quebec next spring..

Hi Rachel- Wow, Thank you! I am honoured. Thanks for reading...

Hey Haidi- He didn't want to leave! He cried big tears on his sticky maple face.

Hi recipegirl- Believe it or not, this was my first time in 9 years in Quebec. Silly, I know.

Hi Paige- I believe you!

Hi Emiline- Yes, it's unbelievably affordable here. We can pick up a can of 500 ml for $4.99...
We certainly had some sticky finger when we left!

DocChuck said...

AHH, Yes! Your great post reminds me of my days living on the (inherited) farm in Upstate New York (Watertown/Carthage area).

Although I didn't have a sugar shack, my friend from the neighboring farm did . . . BUT, I had 100 acres with hundreds of mature (I'm talking HUGE) maple trees.

So, of course, we combined resources, and made the "spring sugaring" a wonderful event.

Unfortunately, the cold weather defeated me after a few years, so I leased the farm to one of the "locals" and moved back to Texas.

Anonymous said...

this looks like fun would really like to try the snow sucker

Neen said...

What a fun experience! And I have to say, l'accent quebecquois du mec dans le video est vraiment magnifique. J'ai du rejouer le video deux fois pour vraiment piger ce qu'il disait. :) I love Quebec.

Aimée said...

Hi docchuck- Wow, what a splendid inheritance. I think I would have stuck out the cold.

Hi Anon- It was a good time! If you have access to snow and maple syrup you can make the taffy yourself.

Hi neen- Merci, merci!

food makes me happy said...

I celebrated my 18 years old birthday there!

Shari said...

I've been wanting to try making "taffy on snow" at home. Thanks for the tip about the temp. They charged us $1 per taffy at the place we went to, but it was worth it!


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