A Food & Travel Blog

Maple Syrup Production in a Canadian Sugar Shack

03/08/2015 | By

Systems may have streamlined, but maple syrup production remains basically the same for Canadian local  food producers.

A sugar shack for maple syrup production, Quebec

One of the joys of travelling, for me, is the opportunity I get to have a glimpse of local food and local food production in other countries. And one of the local food products from Canada that I always find room for in my baggage is maple syrup. The selection of maple syrups and maple syrup products available here in Australia is disappointing – and hideously expensive. My first visit to Maple Delights, a dedicated maple syrup products store in Montreal, was a total eye-opener. I had no idea that maple syrup came in a range of colour and flavour grades, depending upon when it was harvested – with the darker, more robust syrup best used for baking or cooking and the lighter grades preferred for table use.  Let alone the range of maple sugars, candied and cookies on their shelves. I was in heaven.

The other day I put on a jacket that I hadn’t worn since my last visit to Canada and was thrilled to find a forgotten maple candy in a pocket – a happy discovery which reminded me of a visit to a traditional sugar shack on the Île d’Orléans.

Traditional maple syrup production collection method.Maple trees can be tapped from about 30-40 years and will produce sap until over 100 years of age. The sap begins to run in the early spring and the average tree will produce 35 to 50 litres per season. Traditionally, maple syrup production consisted of the collection of sap directly from the trees, in buckets, which was then taken to the sugar shack where it was boiled down to a syrup. Production methods have been streamlined somewhat, but are still basically the same. In place of buckets hanging from trees, a connected system of plastic tubing is generally used and, with the assistance of pumps,  the sap is piped directly to the sugar shack where it is processed.

Maple grove - maple syrup production

A maple grove – where you can’t see the network of plastic piping which is strung through the trees.

The Pocessing area in a sugar shack

Processing area in a sugar shack – note the piping on the left which leads down to the boilers.

More traditional methods of boiling maple sap in maple syrup production

More traditional methods of boiling maple sap. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Many sugar shacks are open to the public when the syrup is in season and are a popular tourist destination. The local producers offer a full range of their own maple products for sale and often have large dining areas where they will host traditional, casual meals with live folk music.

Maple syrup products from Cabane à sucre l'En-Tailleur

Just some of the range of maple syrup products from Cabane à sucre l’En-Tailleur.

Maple syrup producers Cabane à sucre l'En-Tailleur function room

Getting ready for a party at maple syrup producers Cabane à sucre l’En-Tailleur

One of the most delicious ways to enjoy this natural sweet is maple taffy – simply produced by spreading clean snow or shaved ice along long tables (the narrow brown wooden items in the image of the boilers, above), drizzling the maple syrup over it and sticking a popsicle stick into it – believe me, there’s no better way to enjoy it. And if you happen to be visiting Quebec outside of maple syrup season, just head to Maple Delights where they supply this treat all year round!

While in Canada, Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission.

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  1. Anna @ shenANNAgans
    03/08/2015

    Wow, that is absolutely fascinating. It kind of seems a little old school the way the maple is extracted from the tree. Cool post! Adding to my travel bucket list.

  2. Helen | Grab Your Fork
    03/08/2015

    I remember reading books as a kid and dreaming about one day eating taffy! Would love to tour a maple syrup producer – I can almost smell it from here.

  3. Beck @ goldenpudding
    04/08/2015

    How fascinating! – very envious of all those maple products, as I agree on the poor range here, and most US producers won’t ship here even if you want to buy a lot…

  4. Liz (Good Things)
    04/08/2015

    I love this post, Amanda…. a truly awesome experience that you have shared here, many thanks xx

  5. Hotly Spiced
    05/08/2015

    What a great experience, Amanda. I didn’t realise the trees could be tapped for so many years! I have that brand of maple syrup in the fridge. I would love to try some maple taffy xx

  6. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    05/08/2015

    How cool is this! My sister is coming on the 19th with her homemade maple syrup from her own trees in New York. She has a new fancy cooker upper thing, new bottles and new labels. Schaad’s Shugar Schack. LOL It’s all for family and friends – what a lot of work and a labour of love.

  7. Arnoldo Beals
    03/09/2015

    Whereas in the past each state or province had their own laws on the classification of maple syrup, now those laws state the same grades throughout. This had been a work in progress for several years, and most of the finalization of the new grading system was made in 2014.