Sugar Shack Food
Updated: Jan 30
How I managed to reproduce a traditional Canadian brunch in my Aussie home...
A few years ago I was missing the"Cabanes à sucres" (sugar shacks) feast during the maple syrup harvest, and I decided to reproduce it... mainly for creating a collection of photos but also because I missed the taste of home. I was a beginner in food photography, and looking at it now, I'm thinking their could’ve been some improvements. This is a very important subject in traditional Québec food culture and I think it will deserve a second chance and some twists! But I'm not in such a hurry, sugar shack food is delicious but to make all these dishes at once is too much work and calories for a two person brunch (I better invite some guests next time)! It has been such a long time since I enjoyed a sugar shack meal and that is not only since I moved to Australia. Now I'd give anything to enjoy, especially by just being there and smell the fresh syrup boiling and wander in the maple forest. Ho, and also to taste some maple taffy on the snow... (more about this one to come)!
Sugar shack style brunch • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018
In Québec when the spring thaw comes, maple water is tapped from the trees and boiled in the sugar houses to produce syrup. People gather with family, workmates or friends and go for a meal on maple farms to celebrate the welcoming of spring and Easter. From family style cabins to larger commercial dinning rooms, all of them are very busy in season (March-April), so it's always best to make a reservation early. A Québec-style brunch can be made at home or tasted all year long in breakfast or Canadian-style touristic restaurants. The meal always comes with maple syrup of course (that many will soak their whole plate with), but an unmissable side dish is the "fèves au lard à l'érable" (maple lard baked beans). I have worked on my own version of a recipe "made in Australia" (replacing lard with bacon). Homemade baked beans, slow cooked for hours are the best! In the old days, at this time of year, the most available foods were beans, peas, potatoes, bread and pork. Chickens were just starting to lay again, and of course the maple syrup was being freshly boiled, so that explains the essential elements of the Sugar Shack traditional menu.
A classic sugar shack brunch includes the English breakfast type of food like toasted bread, ham, bacon, sausage, eggs and hash brown potatoes. The baked beans are a must and so are the "cretons" (meat spread). I had to learn out to make this traditional spread from scratch as it cannot be found outside Québec. Sometimes a traditional pea soup is also served. I was amazed to have found some "oreilles de crisse" (pork rind) locally, even though I don't eat them, well, maybe just one for the taste. The most common bacon cuts in Australia are much larger but I managed to find the ones we mostly use in Québec, the streaky bacon (also referred to as side bacon). You can't forget the crêpes (thin pancakes) to complete the meal and of course pour some pure maple syrup on top. Québec maple syrup can be found in Australia, and now locally at Nest Cinema Café. Maple desserts are also served in sugar shacks banquets like mini tarts, pouding chômeur, candy cones, taffy, etc. After this, you are ready to go walking in the snow and cut some wood!
Also called a "Lumber Jack" breakfast • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018
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