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.
Split Pea Soup (pictured above in a cheery red terrine)
Sausages cooked in syrup (hmm, let just call them hot dogs, OK?)
Baked Beans (in syrup, of course)
Maple smoked Ham
Pork Rinds (oreille de krisse)
Assorted Pickles Maison
Omelette (oven baked, laced with cinnamon, very nice)
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.