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Recipe Swap: Sugaring season begins in Manitoba

It’s still a snowy, ice-clad world out there, but have you noticed how bright the days are getting? The glare off the snow is dazzling. The trees notice it too.

Gnarly Manitoba maple trees are gurgling and gushing with sap as they wake up to increasing warmth and sunlight of an ever-so-slowly advancing spring.

I’m actually quite surprised how many still don’t know our native maple tree (Acer negundo) is a prolific sugar-maker, much like its eastern cousin, the sugar maple (Acer saccharum).

In fact, many Manitobans tap their trees in spring for their abundant sap, which produces one of the sweetest syrups going. Many do it as a hobby. A few produce enough that they sell their maple syrup products.

Maple tapping is so popular around McCreary that an emerging cottage industry has developed, complete with a spring festival to celebrate the sugaring season.

On Saturday, April 13 McCreary hopes visitors will drop in to learn more about their early-spring harvest in full swing, and the delicious, locally made sweet treats being produced from it. If you go, you can take a wagon ride tour through a maple bush and learn more about syrup-producing woodlots from producers such as Bob Gas and Albert Thompson.

There are treasure hunts and taffy on snow to enjoy, and you can learn to dance a traditional Métis dance form in a workshop with the Manitoba dance troupe, the Asham Stompers. There’s even a maple-themed art exhibit hosted by the Burrows Trail Arts Council. If you’d like more information please call ahead to the McCreary Recreation Office (204 835-2673).

McCreary’s festival is actually a second regional festival built around the delectable maple sugar in Manitoba.

For years, St. Pierre-Jolys has also celebrated local production of maple syrup with its own ‘Sugaring Off’ festival. Theirs flows over two days April 13 and 14. You can learn more about it online at www.museestpierrejolys.ca/sugaringoff.html.

You can visit a sugar shack at both locations to see how sap is boiled down to syrup.

So, if you’re wondering — does Manitoba maple syrup taste different, or sweeter, or better than syrup of Ontario or Quebec? You be the judge. I’ll just say, as a sign that spring, at last, is surely arriving, that first lick of Manitoba maple syrup is a very sweet treat indeed.

Here are three recipes courtesy of Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec. You can find many more recipes from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers at http://ilovem aple.ca/recipes/types-of-dishes.

Maple Energy Squares

These squares make an excellent snack, whether in the afternoon in preparation for an end-of-day workout, after you’ve finished your workout, or to pack for a long hike or bike ride. They provide complex carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals — all vital nutrients for an active person!

  • 1/2 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 1/2 c. skim milk powder
  • 1/2 c. roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/2 c. coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray or brush with vegetable oil. In a food processor, combine the oatmeal, skim milk, sunflower seeds, flour, maple syrup and eggs. Process until the mixture is almost smooth, about 10 seconds. Stir in cranberries, apricots and almonds. Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with coconut. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges are golden and the centre is set.

Makes 16 squares.

Source: Federation des producteurs acericoles du Quebec

Corn and Butternut Squash Soup with Maple Syrup

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 2 celery stalks, cubed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 4 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 c. frozen corn
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • Chives, to taste

In a large saucepan over high heat, sauté the squash, onion, celery, garlic, ginger and maple syrup for about six minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer five minutes. Purée the soup in a blender until creamy. (If the mixture is too thick, add some broth or water.) Return to the pot. Add the corn, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat five minutes.

To serve, garnish with sour cream and chives.

Source: Federation des producteurs acericoles du Quebec

Green Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

  • 2 endives
  • 1 lettuce (loose leaf or romaine)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 red onion, sliced in rings
  • 1 or 2 mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 c. yellow or red pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 c. cashew nuts, whole
  • 3 tbsp. raisins
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Vinaigrette:

  • 4 tsp. cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash and dry lettuce. Removes endive leaves and set aside. Halve the apple, remove the core and slice. Mix the apple slices with raisins and lemon juice. Add segments of the peeled mandarin oranges, lettuce, endive leaves, onion rings, yellow or red pepper and cashew nuts. Sprinkle with the maple vinaigrette and serve.

To make Vinaigrette:

Mix salt, pepper and mustard. Add vinegar and mix well to dissolve the salt. Add oil and maple syrup. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serves 4.

Source: Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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