The Québec maritime Blog
Everywhere in the world, people associate maple syrup with Québec. It is indeed a well-established culinary tradition that has been around for several centuries here; every spring, maple enthusiasts can’t wait to take part in “sugaring-off parties”.
Bas-Saint-Laurent is the second most important region for maple syrup production in Québec. You can also visit many sugar shacks here where you can stock up on maple syrup and enjoy the famous maple taffy on the snow.
At the sugar bush
Above all else, to make maple syrup you need sugar maples. This variety has the distinctive characteristic of “making” sugar as it grows, which gets mixed with its sap. In the spring, when the weather warms up, the sap in the trunk and roots expands and creates pressure within the tree. So, if you tap a maple tree, sap will seep out by itself.
Nowadays, most sugar bushes are equipped with tubing systems to carry the sugared sap to the shack. The traditional method was to install a container under each tap and collect sap tree by tree… In the shack, sap is turned into syrup through an evaporation process. About 40 litres of sap are needed to produce 1 litre of syrup. No other ingredients are included, so it’s truly an authentic and natural product!
Did you know that maple syrup’s colour and taste vary over the course of the season? As the season progresses, the syrup darkens and tastes more caramelized because of variations in the content of sugars, amino acids and minerals that are naturally present in the sap.
An ingredient valued in traditional cooking as much as in modern gastronomy, maple syrup offers a vast number of possibilities, each one tastier than the last. Why would you use it only for desserts when you can use it also to baste a salmon fillet, marinate a piece of meat or make a tasty sauce?
If you're concerned about healthy eating, you'll be happy to know that maple syrup is richer in minerals and vitamins than sugar or corn syrup and that its antioxidant properties are comparable to those of tomatoes, broccoli or bananas! That’s not too bad when you also consider all the good it does to everyone’s spirit!
On your next trip to Bas-Saint-Laurent, take some time to go to Auclair to visit the Domaine Acer maple ECONOMUSEUM®. That’s where Vallier Robert and Nathalie Decaigny create various maple specialty products, including several alcoholic beverages:
- Prémices d’avril, which resembles a white wine
- Mousse des bois, a sparkling champagne-style wine
- Charles-Aimé Robert, which resembles a tawny porto
- Val-Ambré, similar to Pineau des Charentes
Domaine Acer has won many prizes over the years, including two gold medals at Coupe des Nations in 2011, for the Val Ambré and Charles-Aimé Robert.
During a guided tour, you will learn about the different stages for turning maple sap into alcoholic beverages, including the sugar shack and the aging caves. And you shouldn’t miss the gift shop either! Besides the four different alcoholic beverages, you can also purchase maple jelly, maple butters (including the one with walnuts, my favourite!) and maple-flavoured chocolates!
Cooking with… maple syrup
Here's a very simple recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Maple sugar pie
Adapted from the Recettes section of the Domaine Acer website.
- 150 g flour
- 15 g fine maple sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 to 2 tbsp cold water
- 60 g soft butter
- A pinch of salt
Quickly mix all the ingredients until the pastry forms. Roll the pastry into a ball, flatten it and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- 1 1/2 cup fine maple sugar
- 50 ml potato starch
- A pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 cup whipping cream (35%)
- 1/4 cup milk
Mix sugar and potato starch. Put all the ingredients in a mixer and whisk until you get a consistency similar to whipped cream.
Roll out the pastry in a 25 cm pie plate. Pour the mixture on the pastry.
Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes and at 375°F for 18 to 20 minutes.