HOW TO ENJOY MAPLE SYRUP SEASON LIKE A TRUE CANADIAN
If you’re anything like us, your sweet tooth and maple syrup go way back. So back that the sappy sweetener has been front and center for most of your life – usually in the form of breakfast flapjacks or those energy bars you can’t live without. But, sweetening your meals is just the beginning when it comes to the popular Canadian treat. Maple syrup is actually a reason to celebrate in the Great North, especially during spring when new batches pour in. If you are ready to discover a new side to the syrupy stuff, here are our tips to enjoy maple syrup season like a Canadian.
Why Maple Syrup is Good For Divers
This may come as a surprise to you, but did you know that maple syrup is actually worth the carbs? Thanks to the increasing interest in all-natural fueling, the favorite pancake topping has sidetracked many top-shelf options, including sports drinks and gels. In fact, products like pure maple water and maple syrup pouches pose as healthier alternatives to engineered snacks. Not to mention that they taste awesome and do justice by the environment (and you know we’re all for that!).
But, the real question is: Can maple syrup get the (fueling) job done? Comprised primarily of sucrose, the sap provides high-intensity athletes -divers included- with a balanced mix of glucose and fructose. According to research, consuming a blend of these two sugars helps athletes absorb glucose more efficiently without causing any stomach issues. As a result, your muscles recover more quickly than they would if you consumed a glucose-only drink or snack.
That being said, maple syrup is an excellent way to speed your muscle and glycogen recovery after a long dive. Plus, the sap is 100% natural which is always a good thing.
What Happens During Maple Syrup Season?
Now that you know why maple syrup should be part of your post-diving menu, it’s time you found out just about the most exciting way to enjoy the sweet treat. Every year, when winter ends, and spring rolls around, between February and April, Canada (with Quebec being the proudest example) goes into a maple frenzy.
Producers from all over country drill holes in the trunks of their maple trees and attach spouts with a bucket below to catch the sap. Once the bucket is full, farmers take it to the sugar house and keep it in storage tanks until it’s time to bring the thing to a boil. Then, they put the sap through a special machine which removes all the water and forces the sugar to caramelize and thicken. And just like that, maple syrup is born!
WTF Are Sugar Shacks?
Luckily, maple farmers aren’t secretive about their harvesting ways which is how sugar shacking came to be. This festive springtime activity allows visitors, a.k.a. you, your family and/or friends, to get a glimpse of how maple syrup is made. Not only that, but after all the hard work, you get to enjoy a variety of delicious dishes, all drenched in -you guessed it!- fresh maple syrup.
And if you’re wondering, it all started with the first settlers. After observing the natives, Canadians’ innovative ancestors decided to improve the original process by incorporating their technology. And it worked! They even came up with the idea of sugar shacks (also known as cabanes à sucre) which are small cabins near the maple trees where the sap is collected and turned into syrup.
But, it doesn’t there. As the years passed by, sugar shacks opened their doors to the public and became a picturesque attraction for people throughout Canada and tourists from other countries. Today, many of these cabins offer a unique experience to visitors by combining the sweet treat with outdoor activities, a meal fit for a king and the occasional overnight stay.
Besides touring the grounds and getting to know the ins and outs of maple syrup making, some of the most popular activities at sugar shacks include sleigh-riding, snow-shoeing and listening to traditional music. However, if you have a soft spot for food (well, who hasn’t?), you should definitely make a beeline for the maple taffy booth. Usually served after the main meal, the snack is made on the spot, pouring warm maple syrup on fresh snow. Then, you get to roll the soon-to-be-frozen treat around a popsicle stick, and you’ve got yourself a yummy lollipop.
2 Sugar Shacks That Belong On Your Must-Visit List
With hundreds of sugar shacks strewn across Canada, it’s often hard to find out which ones are really worth the drive. Luckily, the choice gets much easier once you figure out exactly what you’re looking for, and in our book, that’s authenticity. If you agree with us on this one, here are the two best sugar shacks to visit during maple syrup season.
If Anthony Bourdain chose this cabane to satisfy his foodie-driven curiosity, then it’s good enough for us. The famous sugar shack is located just 45 minutes west of Montreal, at the top of Mont Rigaud. Unlike many of its kind, the cabane offers you the chance to spend the night in a rustic-looking log cabin and wake up to a beautiful, snow-covered view.
You can also enjoy a traditional cabana a sucre meal to the sound of live folklore music (spoon playing is involved), take a stroll through the woods or go sleigh-ride in the snow. The possibilities are endless. PS: Don’t forget to visit the gift shop next door and indulge yourself in all kinds of goodies, from maple sugar to maple perfume.
It’s true: Sugar shacks don’t have a reputation for being vegan-friendly (even though some of the dishes are 100% plant-based). However, Cabane à Sucre Handfield took a different approach to the matter and broke the mold in all the right ways.
The cabane’s menu is free of all the things that make us, health-conscious eaters, cringe every time we dine out – whether that’s meat, fish, dairy or even gluten. As a result, the sugar shack serves various plant-based dishes that are not only healthy but also scrumptious. Some of the tastiest bites include tofu marinated in fenugreek, steamed potatoes, and lentil creton. Yum!
Have you ever celebrated maple syrup season in Canada? If so, we’d love to hear your story in the comment section down below!