Le Temps des Sucres – The Sugaring Season
It’s that time of year again in Québec – sugaring season! The nights are still freezing cold, but the days are warming up, little by little. The temperature has to be just right, so that Québec’s 13,500 maple syrup producers can collect the sap from their maple trees. Even though there is usually still snow on the ground, it’s also the time when we celebrate the end of winter with a family-style meal at one of the many cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks). Just like I imagine it has been for a hundred years, there is music and merriment as everyone enjoys a huge feast.
The traditional sugar shack menu usually includes pea soup, oreilles de crisse (crispy pork rinds), maple syrup, maple poached eggs or an omelette, ham, maple syrup, tourtière (meat pie), fèves au lard (baked beans), pancakes, sugar pie, and did I mention maple syrup? Afterwards, everyone heads outside to watch log sawing competitions and eat maple taffy (tire sur la neige). It’s good fun!
There is an abundance of cabanes à sucre to choose from, with most of them serving up a similar experience for a reasonable price ($20-$30 all you can eat). Last year we tried Le Relais des Pins on Ile d’Orléans and thought it was pretty good. This year we’re heading to Erablière du Lac Beauport. And on December 1, we’ll be competing with the thousands of diehard fans of famed Montréal chef Martin Picard for a reservation at his wildly successful Cabane à Sucre au Pied de Cochon. If we’re lucky enough to get a seat at the table, I know it will be quite an experience!