Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sugar Shack Shenanigans

It was a gorgeous day in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada. I joined the family in checking out Deerhurst Resort’s Maple Sugar Tour.

Chowing down on maple sugar treats, I wondered, who first figured out that a tree could hide such yumminess inside. I soon found the answer to this and more from my new friends Brian and Dave at the Sugar Shack.

No one knows for sure but most stories agree that the native peoples of North America discovered maple sap and syrup. One legend says that the Iroquois Chief Woksis, in a fit of frustration, threw his tomahawk into a maple tree after an unsuccessful hunting trip. (I’m glad I wasn’t standing near him). The bucket that his wife used to collect water for cooking sat empty at the base of the tree. The next morning, the chief took his axe to go hunting again and this time came home with a deer. Sap had dripped out of the gash in the tree and filled the bucket. His wife thought that the bucket was filled with water and used it to cook the meat. Chief Woksis, his wife and their son, Little Woksis sat down to dinner that night and the conversation went something like this:

Chief Woksis: Hmmm. Good deer, wife. Very sweet. It tastes better than usual.
Wife: I don’t know why. I cooked it the usual way with the water from the bucket.
Chief: I forgot to fill the bucket today.
They both look at little Woksis in horror.
Little Woksis: Don’t look at me. I didn’t pee in the bucket. It must be that dripping tree .

They soon realized that the sap was sweet and when boiled it turned into syrup. When it got really hot, it became a sugar. Because they didn’t have many sweeteners, this sugar became very popular. The aboriginal people taught the settlers how to farm the sap and make the sugar.

In the old days, the settlers often used maple sugar as a currency to trade. They collected the sap with taps and buckets.

Now, they use a system of blue tubes from each tree spigot that are threaded through the trees and then attached to a large line which empties into a big syrup collection tank. The maple syrup producers repair the lines regularly. Most of the time wind or falling branches mess up the tubes but sometimes animals are the cause. Brian told us about a bear coming out of hibernation that decided to snack on the blue lines. Squirrels and deer also gnaw through the tubes to get to the sweetness.

Before we left the Sugar Shack, we sampled apple cider, maple muffins and maple toffee which we cooled in the snow before eating. Yum.

I listened to adults talk about their favourite maple recipes but knew it was time to leave when someone mentioned maple chicken tenders.

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