Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sugar bush during the March Break

It's safe to say that there are a ton of activities available for kids during March Break.  One that won't break the bank, and also gets kids outside, is visiting a nearby sugar bush to see how maple syrup is made, indulge in a pancake breakfast, and roll up some sticky maple taffy.  It's a quintessential Ottawa activity.  Last Saturday, I was able to round up some of our friends to check out the Proulx Maple and Berry Farm in Cumberland.

As you can see, we had gorgeous spring weather on Saturday.  The temperature was perfectly mild, with bright sunshine beaming down on us.
This is the shack where the maple sap (which was 90% water) was boiled all the way down to the sticky, sweet maple syrup we all know.  The young man tending to the wood fire was supremely knowledgeable and very comfortable in speaking to visitors.

There were a ton of young families around.  I should point out that our friends, like us, are in our late 20s and early 30s, and none of us have children, yet.  I felt a little odd at first.  In the end, the excitement to be visiting a sugar bush again after nearly 20 years erased my self-consciousness.

After waiting for approximately 40 minutes, we were finally seated for our pancake breakfast.  It was $22.75 per person (tax included) for the buffet.  The selection was smaller than expected, but it definitely hit the spot on a morning when I didn't partake in my daily coffee before making the drive.

This was my first plate: pancakes, baked beans (with pork), maple-glazed carrots, sausages, homefries, crispy pork (oreilles de crisse), scrambled eggs, and maple syrup.  The eggs were hard, as you can see, and the carrots weren't actually glazed.  They sat in a watery liquid and was mostly just overcooked.  Everything else was pretty delicious.  The pancakes were thin and dense, not your diner-style fluffy pancakes.

The winner of the day was the crispy pork, which we thought was regular bacon.  In French, these were called "des oreilles de crisse" -- roughly translated to Christ's ears.  Little did we know that the fried strips were crunchy, yet chewy.  These were a favourite around the table.

Jimmy's second plate was piled high with crispy pork.

After many refills at the buffet table and a more than a few cups of coffee, we headed outside to a little tented area for the maple taffy.  It was included as the dessert option for the buffet.  You're given a ticket to redeem for taffy or for raspberry or sugar pie.  We all picked the taffy obviously. 

This is basically a boiled down syrup that cools down to a sticky mess the instant the syrup hits the snow (or in this case, the ice chips). You're given wooden popsicle sticks to roll them up into a lollipop form.

As you can see, it's a little drippy at first, but after a while, it smooths out into something that looks like amber on a stick.

Most of our friends found it too sweet and threw out the rest.  I definitely ate the entire thing :)  Memories of childhood, and all that.

We took a walk around the sugar bush to work off our full stomachs.  Most of the trees had one tap and one bucket, but the larger ones had up to five!

There was also a blackened cauldron containing maple sap.  It was a display to show how maple syrup used to be boiled down.

I found that the sugar bush at Proulx Farm was far simpler than I remembered sugar bushes to be.  There were activities at the other part of the farm, but they seemed more geared towards young children and families.  Overall, we found that it was an affordable, fun outing for friends -- especially for those who had never visited a sugar bush before.  Recommended to visit every few years.

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