Mindon, Haliburton County, Ontario
WHEN YOU THINK OF CANADA, WHAT COMES TO MIND?
POUTINE, A MOOSE, EXTREME COLD WINTERS, THE WORD OR PHRASE, ‘EH?’, AND OH YES, MAPLE SYRUP!
Before moving to Toronto about a year ago, I wasn't a huge fan of Maple Syrup... strange, I know. You are probably thinking how could I not like maple syrup? What’s not to like? And possibly the worst thing about it was, I thought all syrup tasted the same. That is just terrible, isn’t it! My husband would be devastated if he heard me say that, so for my sake, and yours… please don’t speak a word of this! So after multiple pancake breakfast’s around Toronto with 'REAL' maple syrup (my husband's term) I started enjoying it!
A family friend told us they had a 'Sugar Shack' and invited to stay in their cottage up north roughly 2.5 hours outside of the city - Minden, Ontario.
Now, this was the real deal, Fool’s Gold Maple Syrup, homemade maple syrup made in their Sugar Shack. We made it our mission to find out just how real REAL maple syrup was.
The city grew smaller and smaller while the rock formations grew larger and larger nearly collapsing in on the narrow windy roads. The temperature continued to drop as we drove directly north. A blanket of snow lined the road, as snowflakes glistened in the large conifer trees. Surrounded by forests of maple trees, unknown at the time, this was a winter wonderland.
Well rested and ready for our maple syrup boot camp, we were on our way to the Sugar Shack. The little red cottage stood out from the 80 acres of naked maple trees, emitting steam which rose from the chimney making it even more welcoming and cosy.
Warned it may take longer than expected, we pulled up our socks and got to it. Clueless, I expected to have fresh maple syrup within minutes. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
So how do you make maple syrup? The short, very short explanation is as follows:
- Collect sap
- Boil sap, which removes the excess water
- Tada! We have Maple Syrup!
I wish! And I’m sure all maple syrup makers out there are in agreement there!
Let me remind you, there are 80 acres of maple trees, which means all trees have to be tapped for sap. In the early spring, a hole is drilled into the bark of certain maple tree species, a pipe is run into a very large bucket which collects the clear sap. The sap is a sweet very thin clear liquid -- almost like water -- but from this comes the goodness of maple syrup.
We jumped on a snowmobile and into the woods to collect the good stuff. Once all the sap was collected, we returned to the Sugar Shack to start our boiling process. You’re thinking, great we have syrup. No, no, young grasshopper. This boils for hours. Hours and hours! And hours and hours! You get it...
Keep in mind it takes 40 parts maple sap to make 1 part maple syrup, 10 gallons of sap makes 1 quart syrup. Crappy, eh?
So after days, days of standing in the Sugar Shack watching the sap slowly change colour and thicken, we witness the very thin clear sweet liquid turn into to an amber butterscotch gooeyness.
During these waiting periods, we trekked through the forest, first on foot than on a snowmobile, realizing there wasn’t much to see because most animals are hibernating and all living things are, well, dead. We were then treated with a cheese board, how great is a cheese board in a Sugar Shack surrounded by maple syrup and a snowy forest. Doesn’t it just sound like a movie?
Finally! We have syrup! Hot, thick, gooey, amber coloured, butterscotch maple syrup. Sweet, sweet maple syrup! Instantly we forgot the long waiting periods, the ‘5 more minutes’ for more than 5 more minutes, that tree sauce wiped our memories and latched on to our taste buds.
So, now I understand what REAL maple syrup is and after that weekend it has and will be the only syrup I will eat on pancakes, or blend into my coffee creamer, or put in salad dressing, or just maybe drink out of the bottle on the drive home, regardless of how I choose to finish that bottle… it is liquid gold.