Sug­ar­ing sea­son is here!

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Barn­ston West, Coat­i­cook

White clouds of sweet smoke could be seen bil­low­ing out of sugar shacks over the Easter week­end as the sug­ar­ing sea­son is in full swing. I’ve al­ready en­joyed my an­nual ‘ca­bane a su­cre’ meal at an es­tab­lish­ment in Rouge­mont,

a fam­ily tra­di­tion since most of the fam­ily is in Mon­treal, how­ever, I’m bound and de­ter­mined to get them to try out one of our lo­cal maple syrup eater­ies, su­pe­rior I’m sure, next year.

With the warm, sunny days and cold nights last week­end, the sap in the sugar maples was really flow­ing. By Mon­day, at a state-of-the-art maple trans­for­ma­tion fa­cil­ity, bet­ter known as La Ferme

Martinette, in Coat­i­cook, owner Gérald Martineau and sev­eral em­ploy­ees were busy in a room full of stain­less steel equip­ment, fill­ing bot­tles of all sizes with the ‘liq­uid gold’. You can watch the fas­ci­nat­ing process through a large win­dow in the farm’s bou­tique where they sell an ar­ray of maple prod­ucts, from tra­di­tional to new. On the new side was a maple, herbal tea which I’m in­dulging in as I write, and maple sugar nuggets which I also bought. The prod­ucts were wrapped in tis­sue pa­per dec­o­rated with small maple leaves and placed in a gold- em­bossed gift bag.

“My grand­fa­ther made maple syrup and my fa­ther made maple syrup. I’m the third gen­er­a­tion of maple pro­ducer but I’ve been here since 1990,” said Mr. Martineau in an in­ter­view with the Stanstead Jour­nal.

Last year’s over­all Que­bec maple syrup har­vest was low thanks to the sum­mer-like weather we ex­pe­ri­enced, last March, which brought the whole thing to a quick end. How­ever, this year looks promis­ing. “The sap started flow­ing at the be­gin­ning of March for a few days, but then it stopped. But it’s been very good for the last ten days and the sap is a really good qual­ity. Ac­cord­ing to the weather that’s been an­nounced, we should have an­other good ten days. So I’d say it’s go­ing well so far,” con­tin­ued Mr. Martineau.

Although there used to be a ‘Ca­bane a su­cre’ restau­rant on the Coat­i­cook farm, Mr. Martineau and the co-owner of La Ferme

Martinette, Lisa Nadeau, now con­cen­trate on pro­duc­tion and trans­forma- tion, pro­cess­ing more than 200,000 pounds of top qual­ity maple syrup an­nu­ally. “We make our own syrup here and we process se­lect syrup from other pro­duc­ers, lo­cal ones when pos­si­ble. We ex­port about 85% of our pro­duc­tion.”

The farm’s beau­ti­fully pack­aged maple prod­ucts, which have won many awards here at home, are sought out by gour­mands in France, Bel­gium, Ger­many, Switzer­land, Ja­pan, South Korea and sev­eral other coun­tries.

Now, if you’re look­ing for that old-fash­ioned, ro­man­ti­cally ru­ral sug­ar­ing sea­son re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence, you can head over to the Holmhurst Farm in Barn­ston West, easy to find with its huge, work­ing, round barn. Tiers and tiers of cans of fresh maple syrup fill the porch, gal­lon jugs as well, wait­ing to be picked up by the many re­peat cus­tomers.

“We had some spe­cial or­ders for syrup in th­ese small cans; you can only get that size in the States,” said Stan­ley Holmes, show­ing me lit­tle cans that hold less than a cup of the ‘good stuff’; cute, but way too small for my fam­ily’s tastes. “We also made spe­cial bot­tles for Stanstead Col­lege,” added Mr. Holmes, show­ing me a glass bot­tle in the shape of a maple leaf filled with the light golden liq­uid, a per­fect gift for vis­i­tors from abroad.

On Mon­day, fam­ily and friends were gath­er­ing sap from buck­ets hung on trees, some five feet wide, to bring to the sugar shack where Stan­ley Holmes Ju­nior was get­ting ready to boil. “We started at the be­gin­ning of March and then stopped for two weeks. It started up again last Mon­day and its very good qual­ity. But we need to make more,” said Stan­ley Ju­nior.

Be­sides its won­der­ful fla­vor, maple syrup is also rich in min­er­als (potas­sium, cal­cium, mag­ne­sium, phos­pho­rous, man­ganese, zinc, iron, cop­per) and B vi­ta­mins. To sub­sti­tute it for sugar in a recipe, for ev­ery half cup of syrup used, re­duce the amount of liq­uid in the recipe by thirty milliliters.

The right weather and care­ful pro­cess­ing are both cru­cial to pro­duce top qual­ity syrup. What’s also im­por­tant is the type of soil in the sugar bush, the qual­ity of the tree cover, the bal­ance in the for­est’s ecosys­tem and the ori­en­ta­tion of the sugar bush.

Whether you like to pick out your maple prod­ucts in a fancy bou­tique or get them from a neigh­bor, now’s the time!

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Pho­tos Vic­to­ria Vanier

James Holmes and Stan­ley Holmes ju­nior (left to right) were about to start boil­ing again, on Mon­day, at the Holmhurst Farm in Barn­ston West.

Pho­tos Vic­to­ria Vanier

Gérald Martineau, the co-owner of La Ferme Martinette, had his em­ploy­ees in full pro­duc­tion mode, on Mon­day, at his maple syrup pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity in Coat­i­cook.

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