There are few things more iconically Québecois than the cabane à sucre, the rustic shack in which maple syrup is produced every spring. Quebec has 7,400 maple syrup producers, and the months of February through April are their productive time of year.
Except that this year, things are different. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Quebec’s sugar shacks are closed to the public.
Many, however, are producing those high-calorie meals that are typical fare in sugar shacks and they will deliver it, along with maple syrup to your home.
Though the best part of “sugaring off” is the experience of being in a charming, country-style cabin, seated at a long trestle table, while a fire is roaring in a large stone hearth, you can still savour the meals at home. Home-delivery and pick-up service are both options. All you need do is open containers of food, heat it and set it up.
In normal maple seasons, visitors to sugar shacks are encouraged to head into the adjacent woods to view the buckets affixed to maple trees as they collect sap to be boiled down into syrup and used as the basis of most of the cabane à sucre meals. Inside the cabane, the enticing smells of wood smoke and pea soup fill the air as diners sit at communal tables, watching dishes arrive one after the other. These dishes consist of such hearty foods as ham, bacon, sausages, baked beans, eggs, pork rinds, pancakes, homemade pickles, homemade bread, sugar pie, and taffy. Almost everything contains the sweet taste of maple syrup.
Many of Quebec’s sugar shacks are small and family-owned. Unlike restaurants, which are usually open year-round, most of their revenue comes from the short spring production period. With restrictions imposed upon businesses this maple season, sugar shacks are suffering huge losses. The lack of visitors means that the year’s income disappears.
Most cabanes à sucre will prepare orders for delivery or pick-up during the pandemic. To make an order, call your favorite sugar shack or order online to schedule a pickup date (for those that don’t offer a delivery option). If you are unsure of where to order from, choose from this list of Quebec cabanes à sucre. •