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  • Annemarie Bolduc

Sugar Shack Food

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

How I managed to reproduce a traditional Canadian brunch in my Aussie home...

Maple syrup crepes sprinkled with maple sugar flakes • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018

A few years ago I was missing the"Cabanes à sucres" (sugar shacks) feast that happens during the maple syrup harvest in Québec. I decided to reproduce it for the taste of home and to make a photo session. I was a beginner in food photography, and looking at it now, I am planning to make another one! This is a very important subject in traditional Québec cuisine but this is quite a project to cook, style and shoot. Also, sugar shack food is delicious but to make all these dishes at once and not waste food is a lot of 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, not only since I moved to Australia. Now being so far away, just thinking of the smell of the fresh syrup boiling and wandering in the maple forest gives me a bit of nostalgia. Ho, and not to forget the taste of some maple taffy on the snow...


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 dining rooms, all of them are very busy in the 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's traditional menu.


Homemade maple and bacon baked beans • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018

SERVING TIPS

A classic sugar shack brunch is a hearty breakfast that includes 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 to make this one from scratch as it cannot be found outside Québec. The "oreilles de crisse" (pork rind) are also a must. And bacon! The most common bacon cuts in Australia are much larger but I managed to find the common ones used 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. For lunches and dinners, an ancestral pea soup is served as an entree. Maple desserts are also served in sugar shacks banquets like mini sugar tarts, pouding chômeur, candy cones, taffy, etc. After this, you are ready to go walking in the snow and cut some wood!


The hearty "Lumber Jack" breakfast • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018


Follow @bottleandbrushstudio for updates on upcoming book(s)... and maple shack recipes!

Check out related posts, recipes and inspirations:

#themaplesyrupcan #mapleandbaconbakedbeans #homemadecretons #poudingchomeur

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