Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cabane à Sucre

Quick reminder:

The deadline for submissions for Tried, Tested and True is Monday, April 14th. We're looking forward to seeing your submissions!

Now - on to today's post:

This weekend, R and I went with a group of friends to a cabane à sucre (sugar bush or sugar shack, in English).

Here's some information I found about sugar shacks:

Where the sugar maples grow in Quebec, there will be "sugar shacks." From the beginning of settlement, colonists tapped the clear maple sap to produce sugar for the year's use as a sweetener. "Spiles," originally wooden tubes with sharpened ends and now metal tubes with hooks for buckets or tubing, were placed in holes drilled into the sugar maple trees. When the nights were cold and days warm, the sap flowed. In the old days, horses hauled tubs of the clear liquid to a covered shed where the sap was boiled down day and night. It took thirty to forty buckets of sap to produce one bucket of golden maple syrup. Men and boys stayed for weeks in the bush tending the fires and watching the syrup so that it would not burn. Today, when one drives through Quebec in the early spring before the snow melts, buckets adorning maple trees and smoke billowing from the bush are a common sight. From this, today's cabin au sucre, or sugar shack, has become a Quebec feature that anyone can enjoy. City folk today flock to the cabins au sucre to feast on maple-drenched dishes, to dance, and to drink. Outdoors, children are treated to la tire, syrup boiled down to a taffy and hardened on snow, and horses draw wagons of fun-seekers into the bush to view the miles of plastic tubing collecting the clear sap—Quebec "gold."

The setup was very quaint. The style of the shacks can vary a fair bit, as can the quality of food. The place we chose was supposed to be a good one.

Of course, the star of the night is maple syrup

The tradition is to put it all over everything. But, I'm fairly conservative when it comes to smothering my food in sweet sap products.

The meal starts off with soupe aux pois (pea soup). The soup was ok. Kind of low on flavour, but I was still open to good things to come.

Next came an omelette du terroir. I'm not sure of the best translation of terroir. But a basic one might be earth. Earth omelette. It was a bready omelette with ham. I did put syrup on this and it was pretty good.

Next came several bowls of food, including beans, ham, sausage, bacon and hashbrowns.

I don't really like beans and these were no exception. The ham and sausage were good. The bacon, unfortunately, tasted like a bacon jerky. It was very hard to chew. (Update: apparently, this bacon jerky texture is intentional. This is the traditional way of cooking the pork called "Oreilles de crisse" (in English, Christ's ears). I prefer regular bacon.) The hashbrowns, despite appearance, were not great. How do you make mediocre hashbrowns?

There was also some great fresh bread with maple leaf-shaped butter.

For dessert there was some sort of French-Canadian crepe.

Tasted like a plain pancake to me.

So, really, with the exception of the bread, the food wasn't great. It wasn't cheap either. But, the experience was fun. The place was very quaint. The waiters were all dressed in traditional outfits.

It wouldn't be a cabane à sucre without a stick full of syrup. The cook came out regularly to pour hot syrup over snow.

Then, you take a popsicle-like stick and roll the syrup on the stick. Yum!

Overall, a fun experience, but the food was average, at best. StumbleUpon


Peter M said...

I thank you for adding a legend to the troupe of characters involved in the EE family. Thanks for the reminder for the food event...I'll bang something out.

Pixie said...

I WANT that maple butter! and the maple syrup from snow- how fun!

have an event for you two btw- time to preserve that fruit your mum gave you giz

Kate said...

The syrup sticks seem like they'd make the whole trip worthwhile

Neen said...

What a lovely tradition! Too bad about the food... I wonder you could try a different joint next year or maybe through your own cabane a sucre party? In the mean time, you've tantalized my imagination... what other savory items could involve maple syrup...

Bellini Valli said...

I remember as a child every 2nd grader would head to the sugar shack. The proprietor would throw hot syrup in the snow and we would eat this delicious "candy".

giz said...

Neen - maple syrup is a perfect match with squash (butternut, acorn)

RecipeGirl said...

What a fun place!

Don't the B52's have some song named 'Sugar Shack?' I always wondered what one was.

Psychgrad said...

I think it's called Love Shack.

Cakespy said...

Give me a heaping piece of that "earth omelette"!!!! It looks fantastic. And why am I so attracted to butter that is shaped like other stuff!?

Elle said...

Thanks for the reminder--I need to get the family out for breakfast at one of the sugar shacks around here!

Your breakfast looks good and filling. ;)

Kevin said...

Visiting a sugar shack sounds like fun.

tpowers said...

Why not credit the author (my wife) Jo Marie Powers?

Psychgrad said...

If you can provide me with a link to her name where the source originates, I would be happy to. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to retrace the source.