Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cabane à sucre : special report

The cabane à sucre this weekend was great. I’ve never had the chance to do this before, despite my otherwise solid Canadian upbringing in the eastern half of this country (Nova Scotia, Québec, Ontario) – even Randal had been to some such parties as a kid, as apparently every year during Festival des voyageurs in Winnipeg, a sugar shack would be set up.

So, yes it is possible to overdose on maple syrup. But I was good and stopped short of a fifth tire. Here’s how it works (the non-scientific explanation) :

Once you have collected a lot of sap from maple trees (by tapping them with a little pipe, of sorts, and placing a bucket to catch the sap), you have to heat it up for many many hours. Guy, my dad’s cousin’s husband, told us that the sap must thicken 40 times before it is ready to eat. He was heating it up in a large pot on an outdoor wood stove. You have to keep about two inches of sap in the pot at all times. When the syrup is just about right, he’d transfer it to a pot on the hot-plate in the cabane, where Louise (my dad’s cousin) would then stir it a bit longer, then take spoonfuls of syrup and drizzle it in small amounts into a bowl full of snow. From then, you roll up the syrup quickly (a second or two after it hits the snow) onto a popsicle stick, then cool the rolled-up syrup a few second more on a cookie-sheet covered in snow. Don’t wait too long or it will get too hard! It’s sticky, sweet, and utterly dee-lish.

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls, at the age of 3, goes to visit her grandma on the other side of the Big Woods in Wisconsin, and they eat maple syrup cooled on the snow (minus the popsicle sticks). That was how I felt today, except we didn’t have a big fiddle dance afterwards. :)

And, oh, did the dog ever have a good time!!! Well, not at first. He was sick in the car on the way down, losing his breakfast all over his towel and Randal’s jacket. Once there, he was a little flustered at first by all the people and Poupée, Louise and Guy’s big black standard poodle. But it was finally not too cold for him to play outside (mon pauvre petit chien frileux), and we took him off his leash once everyone assured us he would not run away. Oh my! He had a grand time cavorting and snuffling through the snow, launching himself into massive drifts, running around, sliding on the icy driveway, and playing “who-will-be-the-last-to-scent-this-snowdrift” with Poupée. (We never did figure out which one won that game in the end.) Rémy, Louise and Guy’s son, took us down into the snow-covered woods down to a (frozen and snowed-over) creek and the dog came joyfully bounding down. Only once he began sinking down too deep in the snow did Randal carry him. I fell in the snow up to almost my waist many times, and once through the ice over the creek (the water is apparently quite low as I didn’t even get my boots wet - but it made a fun crunch noise as I fell through).

Saturday night, how well did we sleep!?!? Rion passed out on the couch around 8:30 - unheard of for him! I followed suit snuggled alongside around 10:30, and we didn’t wake up until after 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

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