Sure, the first official day of spring is still a few weeks away, but much of the country can already see the sunlight at the end of winter's tunnel.
Is there anything more Canadian than maple syrup? "Sugaring time," that brief space between winter and spring when the snow starts to melt and the sap begins to flow in the maple groves evokes romantic images of our pioneering past. Despite the technological advances in farming techniques, production of maple syrup remains largely a "family operation," essentially unchanged from its traditional past.
The skill of collecting and processing the sweet sap of the sugar maple was known and valued by the native peoples of eastern North America long before the arrival of European settlers. There is even an Iroquois legend to explain the discovery of maple syrup. As the story goes, an Iroquois chief yanked his hatchet out of the maple tree where he had left it, and set off for a day of hunting. He didn't notice the deep gash his blade had left in the tree, but all day a colourless liquid trickled from the gash, collecting in a birchbark bowl that was leaning against the maple tree. The following day his wife noticed the full bowl, and thinking it was water, used the liquid to cook a venison stew. The resulting sweet stew was a happy accident, beginning the culinary tradition of maple-cured meats.
Sugar shacks invite you to dine with them each spring. Gather your family or friends and prepare to savour traditional family cooking like you never have before: baked beans, ham, tourtière (meat and pork pie), omelettes, oreilles de crisse (crisp salt fried pork) and a scrumptious selection of maple desserts, not to mention la tire—hot taffy poured on snow and then pulled on a stick before it hardens. And don't pass up a sleigh ride through the underbrush!
To plan your visit to a sugar bush in the Outaouais, see: