There you have it, it’s almost the end of winter, but before we say it’s spring, there’s the maple syrup season!
A true institution in Quebec, the maple syrup season, also know as maple sugaring season, is the favorite time of year for most Quebecers. Not only does it mark the end of winter, but it’s also a genuine family time.
So, what is the maple syrup season really? And, more importantly, how can you fully enjoy it? I’ll give you all my tips.
What Is the Maple Syrup Season?
The maple syrup season is the period between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, typically from mid-March to the end of April. It’s said to last for five to six weeks.
During this time of year, sugar bush operations are reactivated to collect maple water, the basic ingredient of the famous maple syrup.
There’s a genuine connection to sugar (although maple syrup is only 2 to 3% sugar!), but the maple syrup season also marks the arrival of better weather. The snow melts, and the flowers begin (slowly) to bloom. In short, after six months of winter, it’s the moment when Quebec comes back to life a bit!
In Quebec, the maple syrup season is a real event. It’s a time spent with family, where you go to the sugar shack to share a good meal. Above all, it’s the beginning of real outdoor outings, which is a relief after a harsh winter.
The Famous Quebec Maple Syrup
Naturally, maple syrup is the king of the maple syrup season. Made from boiled maple water, maple syrup is a true institution in Quebec.
For the history, the tradition of maple syrup dates back to the time of the First Nations. They observed that when maple branches broke at the end of winter, liquid flowed out. Squirrels would wait for this mysterious liquid to be warmed by the sun and evaporated before they collected what remained. Inspired by the squirrels, the First Nations started collecting maple water and boiling it. That’s how the maple syrup we know today was born!
There are different categories of maple syrup based on their color. In fact, at the end of spring, maple water undergoes a change in content, resulting in much darker syrup. This change is also an indicator that the season is coming to an end when this syrup is produced.
For your information, three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup production is done in Quebec! And you should also know that it takes 40 liters of maple water to make 1 liter of maple syrup.
How to Enjoy the Maple Syrup Season in Quebec?
You’ve understood, to truly enjoy the maple syrup season, you have to consume maple syrup. But there are several typical Quebec activities that allow you to satisfy your cravings.
Visit a Sugar Bush
There are over 400 sugar bushes in Quebec, so you have plenty of choices! Some of them open their doors and offer tours of their maple fields.
It’s a great opportunity to discover how maple syrup is made, from harvesting to production. You can also learn various recipes using maple syrup or buy local products right on the spot.
Dine at a Sugar Shack
When the maple syrup season arrives, it’s time to enjoy a true Quebecois meal at a sugar shack. You should come hungry because meals at sugar shacks are very generous!
The menu consists of entirely Quebecois specialties. Their particularity? Almost all dishes are made with maple syrup. But you’ll also find typical dishes like baked beans, pea soup, or “oreilles de crisses” (a very special dish, a sort of very crispy roasted fat)!
Personally, I’m not a big fan of sweet and savory dishes, so I haven’t dined at many sugar shacks. But I have to admit that the warm and festive atmosphere is very enjoyable.
When you decide to dine at a sugar shack, you know you’re going to have a convivial time. Everyone sits at long tables, chats, laughs, listens to traditional music. In short, it’s a lot of fun!
Try Maple Taffy
Maple taffy is THE thing of the maple syrup season! Absolutely all Quebecers are fans of it, so you really must try it.
It’s simply hot maple syrup poured onto snow and rolled onto a small piece of wood when the syrup hardens. And you eat it like a lollipop!
Oddly, I love maple syrup on pancakes or as a marinade, but I wasn’t as impressed with maple taffy. However, I still recommend you give it a try!
I’ve often said that April is the worst time to discover Quebec, but it’s also the month with the most advantageous rates. So, know that if you decide to visit Quebec during the maple syrup season, you’ll get to experience the REAL Quebec. Not bad, right?