As a little girl, I read of Laura Ingalls’ trip to Grandpa’s for a sugaring off, where they collected the sap and turned it into maple syrup. It was a big event, and there was also work to do, but they did it with style –they dressed up, had a fine meal, played music and danced merrily.
Reading is wonderful, but getting to experience it for oneself in person is truly living.
The last week of March, we went to a sugar house in Quebec… Canada is famous for its maples, of course, and so the sugaring off tradition is a strong one in Eastern Canada.
We went to one close to where Alex’s parents live. It’s a modest family establishment, Meunier & Fils. While not one of the fancier shacks, the people there are very nice and warmhearted. I’m not sure if there is the option to help out with collecting sap, but since we went quite late in the season for it, we most likely missed the charming bustle.
The food was simple, hearty fare but absolutely delicious. Their pea soup was capital, and I was starting to help myself to a second bowl when Alex reminded me that there was still plenty to come!
Here’s what their menu looked like…
Soupe aux pois – pea soup
Cretons maison – pork spread
Betteraves – beets
Fèves au lard – beans
Petits pains frais – fresh rolls of bread
Jambon d’habitant – ham
Grillades de lard – curly bits of fried … pork/bacon
Salade de chou – coleslaw
Patates rôties – breakfast potatoes
Sirop d’érable – maple syrup
Grands-péres – a pudding-y dessert…
Tartes au sucre – sugar tarts
Tire sur la neige – maple syrup on snow!!
The, café, jus et lait – tea, coffee, juice, milk
After the meal, we walked to an old barn, where there was a pot of maple syrup boiling merrily away on an old wood-stove. A man poured the boiled syrup onto basins packed with snow, and I finally tasted my first maple taffy on snow.
It was a realisation of one of my childhood fancies, and I waxed poetic about edible liquid gold clinging onto a bit of bark splintered off a magical birch.
I loved every bit of the experience, and hope to go sugaring off with Alex again next year. I found a lovely establishment in Rigaud, QC that is a bit fancier… Sucrerie de la Montagne. It is definitely on our list of places to go now!
As some people would say, you’re not really Canadian until you’ve gone to a sugar house. 😉 If you haven’t tried it out yet, you must put it in your calendars for next year!
Hope you are all enjoying the appearance (finally!) of Spring weather!!