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  • Writer's pictureAnnemarie Bolduc

Sugar Shack at home

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

How I managed to reproduce a traditional Canadian brunch at home... in Australia!

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

After a few years living abroad, I was missing the"Cabanes à sucres" (sugar shacks) food served during the maple syrup harvest in Québec. I decided to reproduce it for the taste of home and to make my first Sugar Shack food photo session. I was a beginner in culinary photography, and looking at these photos 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 as a self-assigned project. Also, these hearty buffets are so caloric (but delicious) so to make all these dishes at once is a lot of work. Ho, and not to forget the taste of some maple taffy on the snow... a tricky one. Anyway, years after this shoot, I went back to Québec and enjoyed the cabane experience again, and took many notes and photos that will be presented in the future, as my niche cookbook inspired by Québec cuisine is in the making.


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 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). At the first course, an ancestral pea soup is served with bread, cretons and condiments (which I forgot about on this first shoot). You have to be able to fit dessert as mini sugar tartlets, pouding chômeur, eggs in syrup and pancakes will be served. After this, you go outside for a last treat, the maple taffy on snow, which is a thick maple syrup poured on snow or crushed ice and you absolutely can't miss that one. Then you won't need to eat for the rest of the day!



Follow @bottleandbrushstudio for updates on the upcoming book... and a new photoshoot!

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