For most people in Eastern Canada (as well as in the Northeastern USA), there is no better way to chase away the winter blues and welcome spring than by following a long-standing tradition: visiting a sugar shack (a large wood cabin) to eat, drink and be merry. It’s Maple season and time to sweeten our palates!
The arrival of this time of the year is like a breath of fresh air! The world seems to come back to life! Excitement can be seen and felt everywhere. Days are getting longer, brighter and slightly warmer. Snow is melting, birds are chirping, buds break open! Life is good :)
To celebrate the beginning of the new season, my family and I decided to visit a Cabane à Sucre (sugar house) called Constantin Grégoire, which is located about 1 ½ hour north of my hometown, Montreal.
Getting there is quite an adventure and who doesn’t love a good road trip? I sure do and driving is certainly one of my passions in life ;)
At first we noticed this rustic house built in the middle of the woods.
Then we made it to the main entrance.
We were among the first guests on the list but the large dining rooms were being set up. Hence we had to wait for a few minutes.
As everyone knows, I am quite restless! So instead of sitting and waiting (and do nothing), I went to explore the premises (and find photo ops of course).
Around the corner I found a counter with a great variety of home-made maple syrup products for sale like syrup, pies, maple flavored chocolates, candies, taffy and more. Oh I found liquid gold!
I had to hold myself back from over spending, so I decided to come back later. I went into another room and stood in awe before the beautiful stone fireplace.
It sure brought me back in time and could only imagine how people kept themselves warm during the winters a very long time ago!
Now I was starving so I headed back to the entrance and we were now ready to begin to feast!
Families, friends or groups come together under one roof and around long tables to enjoy traditional food. This is what is found on the table first: homemade tomato sauce (or ketchup), marinated vegetables such as pickles, beets and onions.
The entrée is classic pea soup served in a large silver bowl for all to share and pass around.
A light touch of maple syrup can be added and I did. Trust me it is so good! It definitely warms your heart and prepares you for what follows :)
Next, maple infused baked beans & range free egg omelets are brought in! You better be really hungry.
More and more food keeps coming faster than you can say fast!
We needed make some room on the table for maple glazed ham, roasted potatoes, crusty bread, cretons, sausages.
As if it wasn’t enough to whet your appetite boiled potatoes and pork cracklings are added.
This is what my plate looked like and mind you it was only round 1. I forgot to tell you that here it the “all you can eat” formula prevails!
So we all helped ourselves to second servings of course. However we needed to leave a bit of room for the best part of the meal.
Donuts drizzled with syrup or maple sugar pie anyone?
A close up for all of you who have a sweet tooth or sugar cravings was necessary :)
Oh did I even mention that unlimited servings of pancakes (with syrup bien sûr) tea, coffee, hot chocolate and milk just flow? Just saying!
That entire sugar intake is enough to make you bounce of the walls or go into a food coma. Luckily after everyone’s through eating, live traditional folk music is played and people start dancing like no one is watching. It is truly funny but the collective laughter is totally a great cure! It creates a great ambiance and everyone is happy.
We needed some fresh air so we went outside for a walk. We sure needed to burn off some calories after all!
I couldn’t believe what I found along the way. Remember this? :)
Wee! It made me feel like a kid all over again! It’s surprisingly strong and sturdy ;)
Now you may or may not know this but I am very curious by nature. So I asked if we could go see how sap (liquid that comes down from the maple tree) is transformed into syrup. Therefore we went on a small tour.
We started by learning the basics and that is observing an actual maple tree.
A hole is drilled into the trunk, then a metal tap is inserted and the sap slowly drips through the spile which is then collected in the bucket.
The amount depends on many factors such as the weather, condition and health of the tree among many others.
Once filled, the buckets are emptied and brought to the boiling room where the sap will be processed.
Once inside, you can see that it is pretty hot!
It makes you truly appreciate the final product :)
After that much appreciated lesson and history, it is time to continue with the tour!
There are two options offered to visitors: a ride on a horse-drawn wooden cart which goes around the sugar bush at a very slow pace
or a visit to the small farm which is located at the rear.
We opted for the latter.
Within a short distance and a few minutes later, I felt a pair of eyes staring directly at me :)
I saw this colorful character running around
And this one wondering what I was up to
After a short tour we went back inside for one last drink and slowly made our way back home to rest and prepare for the week ahead. No need to tell you that huge brunch lasted the entire afternoon and evening ;)
We were very happy to have spent quality time together and had lots of fun! It’s those unforgettable and precious moments that stay in your memory for a long time.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of the Sugar Shack, one of the traditions we follow here on my side of the planet that I wanted to share it with you!
Now it’s your turn…tell me,
How do you celebrate or welcome the arrival of spring?
Is there a special celebration or
tradition you follow where you live?
I want to know all about it and if you have links or evidence (a.k.a photos) please include them.
Until next time!
All the best