Québec’s sugar shacks offer a different way of exploring the province's cuisine. Increasingly prized by our great chefs, versatile maple syrup is the basic ingredient in exquisite dishes, both sweet and savoury. Want to enjoy the sugar shack experience without leaving Montréal? Welcome to La Cabane
, where the creative chef Helena Loureiro is at the helm in 2013. This warm establishment is found on the Quays of the Old Port and offers a menu that is a treat for the taste buds of both young and old.
If you want to take advantage of the sugaring-off season to explore other regions, Montérégie, the Eastern Townships, Québec City, the Laurentides, Chaudière-Appalaches and Centre-du-Québec are brimming with sugar shacks to suit every taste. One itinerary, the Maple Gourmet Road
(Route de l’érable), showcases some 100 maple producers in southern Québec.
The annual visit to the sugar shack, whether rustic or modern, has become a tradition. It generally involves a meal, maple taffy on snow, a walk along the trails to collect maple sap, a ride in a horse- or tractor-drawn sled and other traditional activities such as dancing to the music of local artists. Québec has some 400 sugar shacks, most near major cities.
Discovered by the Amerindians, who introduced it the first European settlers, the maple sap that flows in the spring has been supplying kitchens with syrup, taffy and sugar for centuries. Today maple syrup is used to make a variety of beauty products and at spas.
The transformation of sap is part of the traditions, folklore and history of Québec. As freeze turns to thaw, sap rises in the sugar maples. That’s when they are tapped, according to an Amerindian custom carried on by the first settlers, to collect the sap and boil it down to obtain delicious syrup. This seasonal ritual gave birth to a flourishing industry.
According to the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers, in 2011 Québec accounted for 91% of the Canadian maple syrup production and 71.4% of worldwide production. Made up largely of syrup, Québec’s maple product exports continue to grow in almost 50 counties. Americans, the Japanese and Germans are particularly fond of maple syrup.