I thought I hated maple syrup growing up. I couldn’t understand why people would opt to put it on pancakes or French toast when they could put honey or jam on them. I liked maple fudge but I thought it was like my love of ketchup and dislike of tomatoes. Made from the same thing but tasting infinitely different. I don’t remember when I realised that table syrup and maple syrup were not by any stretch of the imagination the same thing and that was why I thought I didn’t like maple syrup but it happened at some point and it opened up a whole new world of food possibilities and options for on top of my French toast.
The idea of Canadians and maple syrup is probably synonymous with say the Irish and Guinness. Like them we don’t have it with every meal, nor is it our biggest export but it is definitely part of our cultural identity and probably put into a lot of care packages to friends and family abroad. Within Canada, New Brunswick, PEI, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia are all producers of Maple Syrup with Quebec being the largest producer. Canada produces 71% of the world’s pure maple syrup and we actually have maple syrup reserves just in case the production is slow one year or demand is higher. The maple syrup run is during late winter early spring when you get the combination of warm days and cold night. The maple trees are tapped, syrup gathered and boiled down to make wonderfully sweet maple syrup.
I remember once when I was little visiting a maple farm. The smell of maple syrup hanging in the air around the giant boiling vats and making maple candy on snow which was the highlight of the trip. Last week for March Break my sister and I decided to take my nephews for a road trip to Sugar Moon Farm. A make syrup farm based between Truro and Tatamagche. It started in 1973 under the name of Boondock Maple Products and Pancake House and then was bought and renamed Sugar Moon Farm in 1996. I think I was more excited than than the boys about the trip.
As soon as we arrived I regretted my lack of long johns and hat. Halifax had been warm and sunny. At the farm, it was windy, overcast and bitterly cold with occasional flurries. We met up with friends of mine whose three year old son was significantly better prepared than the rest of us, resembling a well protected race car driver once he was all dressed and ready to go. It was pretty busy so we parked up the road and wandered back to the farm. There was a tour starting in 10 minutes which would have taken us around the facilities but we decided to do one of their trails. Another friend of mine has since gone and did the tour and said it was great.
We set off on the shorter of the two trails. There is a 6km hike which would have been wonderful but none of us were prepared for that one so we chose the 40min return walk that led you up along the tubing to the Sugar Bush and the old original sugar shack. Matt was a bit disappointed that the maple syrup was no longer collected in buckets and taken by horse to the boiling house but seeing the trees tapped and the clear syrup dripping into the tubing and then following its journey back through the woods is kind of neat and the end result is it is just as delicious.
Finishing the walk our next destination was the pancake house. The restaurant is so cozy and was a welcome respite after the chilly air. We walked into the giant wood cabin, complete with an open kitchen where the chefs make the pancakes, giant wooden tables and benches and a big fireplace at the end. My stomach grumbled just looking at the menu. Maple blueberry compote, maple whip cream, maple hot chocolate, maple sausages, maple bacon, maple baked beans, maple pecans…so many options. After a bit of consulting our orders were taken and we sat back and relaxed. One of the chefs brought us freshly made tea biscuits with dairy free maple butter to start and then our drinks arrived. Maple Mocha’s topped with maple whipped cream. Divine. Not long after our pancakes arrived. I had ordered warm fluffy pancakes with caramelised maple pecans, topped with maple whip cream and a healthy portion of maple bacon, which my nephews thankfully helped me devour. On top of all of this I of course added a generous guzzle of maple syrup. It was decadent but felt like home cooking at the same time and my vitamin c, antioxidants and sugar levels I am sure went through the roof.
We couldn’t leave without trying maple candy made in snow so we joined the queue around the fire outside. The syrup is boiled until it reaches 230 degrees and then poured over snow becoming a thick toffee. Shia, Tidus and Marc were each given a popsicle stick to roll up the maple toffee with; grinning from ear to ear as they did knowing they were about to hit an all time sugar high. And so with maple candy consumed, hands, face and gloves covered in stickiness we got them to race back to the cars and the giant work horses at the top of the road. Our own tummies all the warmer for being filled with pancakes and maple syrup.