What can be more iconic to Canada than maple?
Whenever my family went abroad and visited distant relatives and friends, we would often bring along with us two things that "screamed" Canada: Niagara icewine and, of course, maple syrup.
I LOVE maple syrup. Growing up, we only had maple syrup in the household, so it was the only way I knew how to eat my pancakes. Disappointment would be written on my face if we ended up at a restaurant for breakfast with none of the real stuff in sight.
Growing up in Ottawa, we were surrounded by some fantastic maple sugar bushes. My parents used to pack my brother and I into the car on a March weekend and we'd drive out to the countryside to visit these bushes and pick up a few bottles of syrup (with my infamous "Are we there yet?" on repeat).
School field trips to the sugar bush were also a must, as we made our way over the bridge to Québec to visit "les cabanes à sucre." We would trek through the forest of maples, taking a sneak peek into each bucket to see how full it was and take a sip of the sap, and then see where the sap was turned into syrup. Then it was time to drench piles of pancakes with maple syrup. And of course, no field trip would be perfect without finishing it off with some maple taffy-hot maple syrup poured right over some ice cold, clean snow. Ah, the memories!
I was recently invited to go on a maple tour in the Stratford region and jumped at the chance to relive some childhood memories.
Therefore, when Suresh invited me to take part in a maple tour in Stratford with some other food bloggers, I jumped at the chance to relive some childhood memories.
After quick stop at the super cute Revel Caffe for cappuccinos and delightful mini maple pecan schneckens, we made our way to McCully's Hill Farm, a farm situated in St. Mary's (about a 10 minute drive from Stratford) that specializes in the production of maple syrup. When we arrived, they already had a huge spread laid out for us featuring a variety of products with maple syrup: maple sausage, BBQ maple ribs, maple butter tarts, maple mustard, and much more. We all quickly gathered around the table to sample the delicious goodies and taste the different grades of syrups they had—light, medium and amber. You can definitely notice the stronger maple flavour the darker the syrup was. We also sampled some sap freshly drawn from a tree, which tastes much like water with a hint of sweetness to it.
However, we soon got distracted by the farm's store and everyone headed back inside to do some shopping. The store is full of various maple products (syrups, butter, sugar, etc.), along with meat products (they have fabulous maple sausages and great, smokey bacon), fresh homemade baking, endless variety of preserves and pickles, and much more. You can also drop in for their brunch, which smelled absolutely amazing when we first walked in the door.
You can appreciate why maple syrup is so expensive once you've visited a maple sugar bush. First, it's very depend on the weather. Too cold and the sap won't run because it's too frozen; too warm and the sap will all rise to the top. You need that constant fluctuation of temperatures (ideal is a -5°C night and a 5°C day) to have the sap constantly running. It also takes a ridiculous amount of sap to get one bottle of maple syrup.
And what visit to a sugar bush would be complete without a wagon ride. We all managed to pile on to the wagon, and with some little encouragement to Dick and Queen, we headed out for a quick tour of the McCully's sugar bush.
It was a beautiful, albeit chilly day, to head out to the sugar bush, and it brought back so many wonderful memories for me. It was also perfect timing as I had just run out of maple syrup!
A huge thanks goes out to Emily of Savour Stratford and Suresh for organizing a fun-filled day! I was definitely feeling the crash from the sugar-high as I was driving home. You can see what else we were up to that day by viewing the pictures here.