Baking & Desserts

Sugar shack party: Get out to the sugar bush then host a maple syrup party

By: Steven Biggs

Author: Canadian Living

Baking & Desserts

Sugar shack party: Get out to the sugar bush then host a maple syrup party

By: Steven Biggs
When spring is close at hand, the sunny, warm days and frosty nights cause the sweetish, watery sap of sugar maple trees to rise from the awakening roots – ready to be transformed into sweet maple syrup, taffy, and sugar. How about tea with a dash of maple syrup, maple glazed squash, chicken with a maple-ginger marinade, followed by maple-sweetened sugar pie and ice cream topped with syrup.  A trip to the sugar bush with friends and family is a great way to explore local food and learn how sap is transformed into syrup. Then have a party serving maple goodies at home!

Notable maple sugar shacks across Canada
A visit to the sugar shack is more than buying syrup: There is the wafting smell of wood smoke when approaching the building, the sweet smell of evaporating sap upon entering, and maybe a walk through the woods. If you're hungry, many operations serve food such as pancakes, bacon, sausages, beans baked in syrup, maple-sweetened treats like sugar pie, and taffy made by pouring thick syrup on a bed of snow. 
• Ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, then stop for pancakes at Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown, Nova Scotia, which also has a chef's night with multi-course gourmet meals highlighting maple syrup.
• Take part in a traditional sugar-party meal, folk songs, and sleigh rides at Village Québécois d'Antan, a pioneer village in Drummondville, Quebec.
• Visit Wheelers Maple Products in Kingston, Ontario. In addition to a pancake house, there is a maple museum with a comprehensive collection of maple syrup production equipment and tools.

Beyond sugar maples: Manitoba maples, birch and BC bigleaf maples
Maple syrup comes from the sugar maple, which grows in South Eastern Canada.  Don't despair if you live in Western Canada, as the sap of some other trees can be used to make flavourful syrup:
• Savour Manitoba maple (box elder) syrup at the sugaring-off party held at the Saint-Pierre-Jolys Museum in Manitoba.
• Try birch syrup at Birch Place Farm in BC.  While maple syrup requires 40 litres of sap per litre of syrup, birch syrup requires 85-150 litres of sap.
• Or taste bigleaf maple syrup from Backlund's Backwoods on Vancouver Island.

Fun maple syrup festivals
Many communities host maple-related festivals featuring trips to a sugar bush, wagon rides, maple-themed food, dancing, and lots of syrup! Well known festivals include the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival and Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival in Ontario, le festival Beauceron de l’Érable in Quebec, and the Saint-Quentin Maple Festival in New Brunswick.

Find maple syrup products
Maple Syrup can usually be found at farmers markets, roadside stands, or a local sugar bush. Other useful resources include producer associations and provincial agencies such as the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, Maple Producers' Association of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association Inc., and Bonjour Quebec.

Page 1 of 2 -- Find tips on hosting a sugar shack party at home on page 2

Did you know
• Syrup is graded, then classed by colour (lighter syrup has a more delicate maple flavour, while darker syrup has a more robust flavour). 

• Canada number 1 grade has colour classes of extra clear, clear, and medium

• Canada number 2 grade has an amber colour

• Canada number 3 grade has a dark colour

• An unopened can or vacuum-tight bottle can be stored at room temperature, but should be refrigerated after opening

A welcome prelude to spring, a visit to the sugar bush is a fun family outing, and an enjoyable way to learn about a locally produced treat.

Sugar shack party
by Christine Picheca

Back from the shack, warm up with cocktails and canapés that showcase your maple treats from the sugar shack outing.

Cocktails: When you get your group home from the sugar shack, break out the maple booty and mix up our Maple Leaf Sour – a twist on a Whiskey Sour that uses the sweet liquor of the maples to create a Canadian twist on an old stand-by cocktail.

Hors d'oeuvres: Make-ahead Smoked Salmon Baguette Slices just need to be sliced when you get home and are a perfect pairing with the earthy flavour of maple syrup.

Have Maple Mustard Glazed Wings marinating in the fridge. Pop them in the oven for finger licking snacks in under an hour.  

Substitute maple syrup for the honey in our Prosciutto Shrimp for a sweet and savoury snack that will be a winner with the sugar shack crowd.

Garlic and Herb Dip
with a selection of crudités rounds out this menu.

Read more: How to cook with maple syrup

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Baking & Desserts

Sugar shack party: Get out to the sugar bush then host a maple syrup party