Every year as winter gloom peaks mid-February, there's a sweet, time-honoured tradition we partake in every year.
Native Americans were the first to discover maple syrup: as early as 1609, they used sweet sap from the maple tree to make sugar and cook.
One legend tells the story of Chief Woksis, an Iroquois chief, who threw his tomahawk into a maple tree, and after he removed it, the weather turned sunny. Sap began flowing from the tree into a container at its base, which was used to boil the meat for dinner, leaving a sweet and delicious taste with the meat.
As spring approached and the days got warmer and longer, Native Americans would move their families into a spot rich with maple trees, establishing "sugar camps" while the sap would flow.
French settlers were taught by First Nations how to tap maple trees and boil the sap, and soon this sweet treat became the basis for many of their traditional dishes like pea soup and baked beans, maple-cured ham and fried pork rinds, maple sugar pie and of course, the traditional (and fan favourite) maple taffy on snow.
Fun fact: Canada produces 80% of the world's pure maple syrup, with Québec being responsible for over 90% of the country's production.
Not only does la Belle Province produce 71.4% of the global maple production, but we also make the best maple syrup in the world.
Offering a different approach to the traditional sugar shack, chef Martin Picard brings a taste of tradition to the streets of Montreal with a daring combo of classic dishes mixed with unpredictable flavours.
While it remains closed for the 2022 season in-person dining, you can order a gastronomic feast to celebrate the season at home. The yummy box (https://aupieddecochon.ca/en/cdac/maple-menu-for-2-2022) contains such mouthwatering dishes as pecan and brie omelette foie gras stuffed meatloaf with apple sauce and overthrown pineapple and maple cake.
While this cabane, a sucre restaurant, is more expensive than most, it's well worth the price if you're in the mood for an elevated maple experience.
A hidden maple destination, Labonté et la pomme, is set in a rustic, picture-perfect setting in Oka valley. This family-run apple shack is the first of its kind in Quebec. Heavily influenced by their signature flavour, the apple, Labonté's menu is a throwback to tradition a la mode.
The apple shack offers three packages: in-person dining, on-the-go and take-out and features a gourmet menu that the chef prepares on the woodstove like the delicious applewood smoked ham, bacon and Oka cheese waffles with applesauce.
When your belly's full, head over to pick your maple water using the traditional maple water harvesting experience. In addition to bringing a little taste of tradition back home, you can walk along the scenic hiking trail and visit the animal farm (say hello to Pépin the goat for us)
About an hour away from Montreal, nestled amid a 120-acre forest, Sucrerie de la Montagne sits atop a Mont Rigaud. The perfect blend of old and new, the Sucrerie de la Montage offers you a traditional feast of timeless favourites such as the traditional meatball stew and mountain dweller's pea soup in a warm and authentic atmosphere complete with live folk music and cozy horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Run by the Faucher family, this sugar shack is among the most acclaimed ones in Quebec.
Established in 1941, the Constantin sugar shack in St-Eustache is family-owned and operated, offering the perfect authentic Quebec maple experience; families can discover the beautiful landscape and bountiful forest by horse-drawn sleigh or train ride. Especially welcoming to small children, this sugar shack features bouncy castles, jungle gyms, a puppet show and a petting zoo, as well as ATV courses and disco parties for older kids, making this a top family destination sugar shack.