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.
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 [tire] 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. [Note: there is a lot of pork in the food at sugaring off] 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.
When is sugaring off? It depends on the weather. The temperature has to be above 0º during the day, but below freezing at night. It is usually in March.
Where can you go? Sometimes there is a sugar shack set up in a park in Montreal, but the real sugar shacks are outside the city, in the forested areas.
Finding a Sugar Shack [cabane à sucre]
These two websites (in French only) have address of sugar shacks in Quebec. Click on the regions near Montreal to get lists of addresses. The regions near Montreal are Laurentides and Monteregie.