Maple syrup is famous all over the world for its sweet taste and beautiful amber colour. Over 75% of the world’s maple syrup is made in Quebec from the sugar maple trees (there is a maple leaf on the flag of Canada).
Like all trees, maple trees have sap (liquid) inside them. In the spring, when the temperatures get above freezing (0° C), the sap in the sugar maples starts to move inside the tree. If you make a hole in the tree, the sap will run out into a bucket. If you collect a lot of the liquid sap, and then boil it for many hours, it is reduced to maple syrup.
Real maple syrup is very sweet and delicious, and it is expensive. It is normal to pay between $7.00 to $10.00 for a can of syrup, with the price changing every year because each year’s harvest is different. The lighter grades are usually more expensive, too.
Quebeckers have made many different treats with maple syrup – maple sugar, maple butter, maple candy, and sugar pie. Sugar pie is a favourite traditional dessert in Quebec.
A popular springtime tradition is to go “sugaring off” at a sugar shack [cabane à sucre]. Most sugar shacks are in small towns outside the city. They show visitors how to make maple syrup the traditional way, and they make maple taffee by pouring hot, thick syrup on the snow to cool it. This is followed by a big, traditional Quebec meal with ham, bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, pea soup, pork rinds [oreilles de crisse], and maple sugar pie. In most sugar shacks, there is usually traditional Quebec folk music and dancing after lunch. If you get a chance to go sugaring off, you get an idea of traditional Quebec culture.