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The sugar shack: a springtime tradition
Two events mark the arrival of spring in Québec: nature’s reawakening and a visit to a sugar shack
A must artisanal experience
Eating a copious traditional meal in a warm and cozy atmosphere are part and parcel to this joyful tradition that has been going strong ever since the festive sugar shack—ideal for friendly gatherings—was created. And, while the maple syrup alone makes the excursion worthwhile, these establishments often offer fun activities, dancing to folk songs and educational guided tours of their facilities. Visitors learn the so very sweet-smelling process of making maple syrup, from the collection of sap to the final product we douse our pancakes, waffles, French toast and even our meats with, or that we add to many of our recipes. It’s a product we also export in great abundance (Québec accounts for 74% of the world’s maple syrup production), to the delight of Japanese and German citizens, who consider it an exotic delicacy!
An Indigenous tradition lives on
While the process of collecting and transporting maple sap has modernized since the Amerindians first tapped maple trees with their tomahawks, the transformation process itself has remained close to its roots. To convert the sap into syrup by evaporation, wooden shelters were eventually invented to protect the syrup and minimize the loss of heat associated with cooking in the open air. And this is how sugar shacks have come to dot the Québec landscape
Calling all sweet tooths!
While many sugar shacks have stayed true to their ancestral artisanal charm, others have taken a more commercial path. Wherever you go, maple syrup is always central. Practically every dish either contains or is bathed in the liquid gold: ham, baked beans, sausages, eggs, pancakes… you name it. And we haven’t even gotten to the maple syrup pie! Only the pea soup and bacon rinds (colourfully known as oreilles de crisses) balance out this sugary indulgence.
And, at the end of the meal, no matter how full you are, there’s always a little room for the maple taffy, poured warm onto fresh snow, and wrapped around a stick.
Bring a bit of the sugar shack home
To prolong the experience, be sure to stock up on maple syrup and its many by-products like maple butter, sugar, caramel, bread, jelly, candies and even alcoholic beverages!