Monday, March 16, 2009

Canadian Sugar Bush

You know it's spring in Canada when the maple trees are being tapped and the smell of burning wood and maple syrup are in the air. There are Maple Syrup festivals all around us and people are sampling local syrup with their pancake breakfast, in their coffee and in the form of maple shaped fudge and candies, to name only a few.

Psychgrad mentioned that she and "R" were planning a trip to the local sugar bush near her city and I thought it was a fun thing to do so I rounded up some friends and off we went. Psychgrad and I will share our same day experiences in different cities enjoying the same thing. How cool is that?

The place I went to is a very unassuming tree farm, very rustic and no commercial fanfare about the spring festival.

As you can see, although spring is just around the corner, we still have a fair amount of snow in the outer areas of the city.

Admission to the festival was really minimal and you were met by the owner of the farm who was entirely charming and very funny. He escorted us to a tractor that was pulling a flat bed and everyone hopped on to be driven into the syrup making area.

Can you guess what this is?

I'll tell you later in the post (not a bad way to keep you reading ...he he he)

First stop - the maple cabin - this is where they feed you pancakes with copious amounts of maple syrup. As a point of interest - maple syrup starts off being 3% sugar and 97% water. Once it's cooked it reverses to 97% sugar and 3% water. All the kids entering the maple cabin were well behaved. By the time they left, they were a total bunch of raving lunatics. Here...have some more maple syrup kids, I don't have to live with you :).

When you enter the cabin there are many different sizes of maple syrup bottles for sale. Since the whole process is extremely labour intensive, maple syrup is not cheap. The 40 ml size was selling for $6.99.

See the bubbles on the surface - that's how you know when pancakes are ready to turn. In the U.S. I think these are also commonly called flapjacks, not to be confused with the cake like treat in the U.K.

Oh my!!! Could life get any better than this? And look at the maple syrup just swimming on that plate.

.... and then compliment it with a steaming cup of maple coffee.

The pots and stove inside the cabin represented process in days gone by. Not much has changed other than the evolution of the stoves.

Now that we've indulged beyond capability of movement we dragged our sorry butts out for the educational part of the experience. I hope you're able to read the information; it's actually pretty interesting.

In pioneering days, tapping the trees was done with whatever equipment could be made.

and then cooked in large pots over an open flame

Today tapping is a little more sophisticated and sanitary but not a big change

The spiritual connection between native Canadians and the earth shows the meaning of maple syrup to the culture.

One of the most impressive pieces of information was how conservation wise manufacturers of maple syrup really are. They don't tap the tree in the same place twice and give the tree time to heal. The same tree can give sap for literally centuries.

This was my experience - good learning - good food and a fabulous day to enjoy the outdoors. I know that Psychgrad had a similar but different (does that make sense?) day at her local sugar bush. She even went so far as to prepare a wonderful meal with her spoils of the day. I was not quite so ambitious so stay tuned for Psychgrad's experience in the next post.

Well - you've come this far. The picture near the top that I asked you about - if you had any idea what it was? It's a form to put evergreen trees on and tie/wrap them for shipment. Who would have thought? StumbleUpon


Grace said...

my obsession with pancakes begins and ends with maple syrup. i think the amount that i use would make the average person sick, but i can't get enough of the stuff. :)
great post!

Ricki said...

I used to love doing this when I was a kid in Quebec. So much fun! Love the info re: how syrup is made. And maple coffee sounds divine!

Bellini Valli said...

I always loved going to the sugar bush when I lived in Ontario. If I look way back I even remember the owner throwing hot maple syrup into the snow and making "candy" for the kids.

Elra said...

Very informative, I love maple syrup as well. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Meg said...

Fascinating, and it looks like a lot of fun! Just FYI, they're pancakes in most of the USA as well. Flapjacks is a very "Deep South" term, or what cowboys used to call them. :)

giz said...

Grace - I'm with you - pancakes are the excuse for tons of maple syrup.
Ricki - somehow I think the maple coffee is right up your alley
Val - they still throw hot maple syrup onto the snow and make candy
Elra - somehow I think you would be cooking and baking up a storm with maple syrup
Meg - thanks for clearing up the flapjack thing - see - we learn something every day :)

Springtime said...

The pancakes looked wonderful swimming in the maple syrup! Maple syrup is even more hideously expensive over here (UK) - but it is definitely worth every penny.

I was reading in a magazine the other day about how you can tap birch for their syrup in a similar way. Apparently it's not as good as maple syrup, but I may have a go...

Maryann said...

There's nothing like it! Pure gold!

Bunny said...

This was very interesting Giz, I have such a weird curious mind though. When I was looking at the trees I couldn't help but wonder about how that first person walked up to a maple tree and decided that they could make something wonderful out of the sap. I am in such awe of people who have the ability to see past the trees.

melissa said...

That's really fascinating. I love the sign about the Native Americans. Can't wait to see what PG does with her stuff.

And I LOVE true maple syrup. I was lucky enough to have it from Vermont when I was a kid living in New Hampshire and again a couple of years ago when a friend's parents brought a bunch back from that area. SO GOOD.

Cakebrain said...

I would so wish to visit a place that makes maple syrup! I've never been to the East Coast of Canada before though I've travelled all around the world already! How weird is that, I know! I'll have to put this on my "to do" list of foodie places to visit!

Hopie said...

I brought back some maple syrup on my last trip to the US, and made a pancake brunch this weekend to celebrate maple sugar season. I miss maples!! They're such wonderful trees.

Lori Lynn said...

Looks like fun, Giz. Oh that maple coffee sounds great to me. Love the old pot too.

Elle said...

Thanks for the educational journey. It is quite remarkable that a tree can be tapped for so long for the syrup ingredient. I love real maple syrup and am grateful to the makers! Those pancakes look delish!

Ivy said...

You still have a lot of snow over there. The post is very interesting and I thanks for the virtual tour.

Lori said...

I so need to do this with my girls this year. Thank you for the reminder.

Nicisme said...

Wonderful post to read, thanks so much!

Ricardo said...

I had never seen maple syrup in that form ...and I must add I would love to try the real stuff, I mean just finished being made on some lovely pancakes...yum yum!