Ontario Maple Syrup festivals: A Canadian tradition in early spring!
It is the beginning of March and this also means maple syrup festival time in Ontario!
As the maple tree is one of the symbols of Canada - taking part in a Maple Syrup harvest festival is a wonderful way for new Canadians to experience Ontario nature and taste from this annual local tradition in early Spring.
The maple sugar industry is unique to the provinces of Quebec (the biggest producer), Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (and in parts of the Northeastern United States).
The Native people of Canada had known how to harvest maple syrup, by collecting sap from maple trees, long before the first European settlers came in the 16th century and they later show them how it is done.
Today "Canada produces about 85 % of the world's maple syrup - valued at over $213 million annually. There are approximately 10,500 producers across the country located mainly in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that export maple products to 45 countries worldwide." (Source: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food)
LIBRARY BOOKS ABOUT MAPLE SYRUP:
- Maple Syrup Smoke & Kettles, DVD, 2005.
WHAT IS A MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL ABOUT?
When visiting the "sugar bush" - you will watch demonstrations of how the sap gets collected at the maple trees and boiled into sweet sticky syrup and you will also try the fresh syrup. There are also many family friendy activities such as wagon rides, children's crafts, and of course - pancakes and maple syrup candy!
You can find many locations throughout Ontario that host maple syrup harvesting events. Usually they happen on farms that produce maple syrup or in a provincial park/conservation area. This is a list of maple syrup festivals in Ontario - as published by OMSPA - The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association. Even more maple syrup farms can be found with a search on the Internet.
TIPS FOR ATTENDING A MAPLE SYRUP EVENT:
- Timing - harvest time is limited - most of the activities are during March - usually the places are open all day during weekends and early April and every day during the school March break.
- Cost - usually the festivals charge a small fee for attending and/or tasting so make sure to bring cash to buy some tasty treats.
- Dress appropriately - the maple syrup festivals happen outdoors in the "sugar bush" and the weather in March is still cold and wet. Think - warm layers of clothing especially for the kids, boots, warm socks, mittens and hats. Since the tastings happen most likely outside - be prepared to get in some mud.
- Crowds - the maply syrup events can get very busy due to the limited season and March break. Plan your trip - there can be longer arrival lineups for cars especially in the first part of the day and another lineup for those yummy maple syrup pancakes.
- Fun - have fun and enjoy a unique rite of passage of early Spring that we have inherited in this country!
SOME MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVALS IN THE GTA AND NEARBY:
One of the most accessible locations for Torontonians to attend and enjoy this unique natural tradition are the two parks of the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival - the Kortright Centre for Conservation (in Woodbridge) and Bruce's Mills Conservation Area (in Stoufville). There are also maple syrup festivals at Bronte Creek Provincian Park in Oakville, Mountsberg Conservation Area in Milton and east of Toronto - the Purple Woods Maple Syrup Festival near Oshawa.
Video from Kortright and Bruce's Mill Maple Syrup festival - http://www.maplesyrupfest.com
Maple syrup is a natural, healthy and pure sweetener and this makes it a great substitute for sugar. Before I immigrated to Toronto - I had never tried maple syrup! Now I always keep a small bottle in my fridge and pancakes topped with maple syrup are a favourite Sunday breakfast for my family.
Our easy family recipe for fluffy yogurt pancakes topped with maple syrup (double the recipe if needed and adapt the ingredients as you please):
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp. oil
Combine the flour, soda, salt and sugar. Whisk the yogurt and eggs together and add them to the flour. Heat up the frying pan to medium with a bit of oil and fry the pancakes - one at a time - put a large spoon of batter on, in a couple of minutes as you notice bubbles forming, flip the pancake and cook the other side for about two more minutes. Serve warm with your favourite savory or sweet toppings, such as butter, cream cheese, fruits, honey, jam, and of course - with maple syrup!
But maple syrup goes far beyond pancakes and is being used by many chefs in delicious recipes for appetizers, main dishes and desserts - here is a recent selection of Maple syrup: 10 truly Canadian recipes, published in January 2013 by the Canadian Parent magazine.
Have you been to a maple syrup harvest? Do you have favourite maple syrup recipes?
Bon appetit! I will be off to visiting my first maple syrup festival this month!