Sugarhouses in Quebec's Hinterland

Ji Jia Ying

 

Screen shot 2011-02-16 at 1.13.51 AM.pngFrom late February to early May, perhaps the best known activity in Quebec is eating hot maple taffy off fresh snow, which is made by a cabane à sucre. Cabane à sucre are Quebecor sugarhouses, which most of the time are family owned. Usually, you can find one less than a day's trip out of Montreal. The old backwoods, warm environs are the reason that tourists from everywhere in the world and the Quebecor families go to the small, authentic sugar shacks every winter. There are hundreds of sugarhouses in Quebec. Many families and guests gather together to celebrate and enjoy the sweet treats that are offered.

 

Screen shot 2011-02-16 at 1.13.32 AM.pngMy first experience at a cabane à sucre was with a group of Concordia students. The sugarhouse keepers were very warm and kind to us. They not only provided a tour of their sugarhouse but also prepared lots of delicious food.  Traditional cabane à sucre  cuisine is rich in ham, bacon, sausages, eggs and pork rinds. In addition, many operators have begun varying their menus to satisfy target markets such as vegetarians, Muslims and Jews. Many varieties of dishes with maple syrup and breakfast type dishes were served. After dinner, there were many outdoor activities. We rode on sleighs, visited maple woods and learned how to make maple syrup.

 

Screen shot 2011-02-16 at 1.12.56 AM.pngMaple syrup is a one kind of syrup made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees. Sugar makers drill a small hole into the trunk, collect the sap from maple trees and then boil it down to maple syrup inside the sugarhouse. On our trip, the most popular activity was making maple syrup taffy.





Firstly, sugar makers poured hot maple syrup in a line on a patch of clean snow. After a few seconds, we rolled maple syrup taffy around sticks. After just a few seconds, it was ready to eat. There was also a sugarhouse shop, which sold all kinds of fresh maple syrup products that we purchased as gifts before leaving.

 

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In Canadian culture, sugar shack fare is warm, bringing us back to a time when winter survival was a serious obstacle. It was a very important nutritional source at the time. Maple syrup is a healthy sustainable food product. Pure maple syrup has no fat and is a good source of manganese and zinc. Compared to honey, maple syrup has 15 times more calcium and 1/10 as much sodium. Finally, this festival brings excitement after the long and boring winter season.


This festival is special to Canadians because it symbolizes the end of winter and the longing for summer. When you go to sugarhouses, you can automatically read the happiness and energy on everyone's faces. Finally, the most important thing is that maple syrup has cultural significance. During the American civil war and World War II, Maple syrup was one of the main sources of energy and nutrition for soldiers. This is partly the reason why maple leaves represent Canada. It is well known that the red maple leaves are the symbol of independence, unity and dignity in Canada.

 

Screen shot 2011-02-16 at 1.13.16 AM.pngCabane à sucre  is not just business as usual but a bridge to help people learn about Canadian traditions. After my trip, I remember most the Canadians' warm anticipation of the end of the cold winter. Till this day, I still miss the kindness of the people and their tasty sugar treats.





An Assortment of  Sugarhouses




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