Maple syrup is one of the great treats of spring. The sap in maple trees begins to flow when the temperature climbs above freezing during the day but the nights remain cool. By March, conditions are ideal and a trip to a sugar shack (known as a cabane à sucre in Quebec) is a great activity for the whole family.
I remember visiting sugar shacks as a kid and loved the sweet, smoky smell of the boilers cooking down the maple sap, turning it into the golden elixir we pour on our pancakes. There were always maple treats that went beyond bottle syrup such as maple taffy poured onto the snow, maple butter, maple candies and maple sugar. Many sugar shacks also offer hearty, rustic meals of pancakes, pork and baked beans to showcase their syrup. Each spring, Martin Picard, chef and owner of the famed Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, opens a version of a cabane à sucre featuring his unique take on the Quebec maple experience. Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon is located about 45 minutes from Montreal in St-Benoît de Mirabel. However, reservations can be hard to come by (this season is fully booked) so plan ahead if you want to go next year. I haven’t been to the cabane à sucre yet (hopefully next year!) but if it’s anything like Au Pied de Cochon, you’re in for a treat, especially if you enjoy foie gras.
If you can’t make it to a sugar shack and want to enjoy maple syrup at home, here are a few delicious ideas:
Spicy Maple-Dijon Glaze – Brush on ham, bacon or a pork roast or use as a dip or spread for sandwiches.
Maple-Caramel Custards with Sea Salt – This rich and creamy custard is the perfect way to end a meal.
Pumpkin French Toast – A breakfast treat with the flavours of pumpkin pie. Top it off with a healthy drizzle of real maple syrup.
Pancakes – Skip the accompanying blueberry sauce in favour of some maple syrup.
Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – A classic pie with a delicious and decorative twist.
Baked French Toast – Breakfast is made easy with a dish that is prepped the night before and baked in the morning.
Maple Nut Oatmeal – Warm up on cold mornings with a sweet and nutty treat.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple – Dress up dreaded brussels sprouts with a maple based glaze that brings out the best in this underrated vegetable.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!