Maple Syrup Festival in Ontario, Canada

posted in: Blog, Canada, Festivals, Ontario | 43

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This must seem like the most stereotypically Canadian thing to do ever, but yes, we did it. We attended a Maple Syrup Festival! Justin and I spent a Sunday afternoon at Mountsberg Conservation Area in Campbellville, Ontario, and learned all about the production of maple syrup. Mountsberg is home to the 150-year old Mountsberg Sugar Bush where maple sap is still collected and used to produce syrup using historical and modern methods.  Canada produces 80% of the world’s maple syrup supply with 91% of that supply coming from our neighboring province, Quebec. Maple syrup is also harvested in Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. We are fortunate to live so close to such a unique harvest, especially when it is for something as sweet and tasty as maple syrup!

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Justin and I wandered down a path through the Mounstberg Sugar Bush (a “sugar bush” is the term for a maple production farm).  Sap is collected from the trees by tapping the trees. Trees are able to be tapped after they are 30-40 years old, supporting anywhere from 1-3 taps depending on the diameter of the tree trunks. We saw many trees with two taps and buckets on them, and also many with just one.

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March is the ideal month for collecting maple syrup in our region. Maple trees depend on cold nights and warm days for the steady flow of maple sap. The ideal conditions for sap collection and syrup production are a few consecutive days with daytime highs of 5 degrees Celsius and nighttime lows of -5 C. Sap is not tapped at night because the temperature drop inhibits sap flow.

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The average maple tree will produce 35-50 litres of sap per season. With the sun shining, yet the temperature remaining slightly above freezing with the snow still on the ground, these conditions were fantastic for maple syrup production, which we were able to see in action!

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Inside the Sugar Shanty building, maple syrup was being produced from the sap using modern methods.

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This diagram shows the basic production methods of making maple syrup from sap. It takes 40 litres of raw sap to produce 1 litre of pure maple syrup. As you can probably imagine, it takes a LOT of sap to make syrup! The production methods are little changed from colonial days, although some processes have been streamlined with modern equipment. Maple syrup is made by boiling the sap over an open fire. This must be properly monitored to ensure that the syrup contains an appropriate sugar content, without the sugar crystallizing or spoiling.

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With this modern piece of machinery, we could see maple syrup being produced before our eyes! Also, back outdoors, maple syrup was being produced in traditional methods inside a giant cauldron over a burning fire. We didn’t stick around for very long to see the outdoor method as it was quite smoky, but regardless, it was pretty neat!

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Maple syrup is great to use as an all-natural sweetener as it is unrefined, and retains all of the natural nutritional value from the sap of the maple tree.  It has one of the lowest amounts of calories when compared to other sweeteners. It also contains several important vitamins and minerals, including manganese, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, and potassium.  Maple syrup is very tasty to pour over your pancakes, and can also be used in place of sugar in some baking and cooking recipes.

Speaking of pancakes…

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Mountsberg served pancakes with their own maple syrup at the Pancake House. While we didn’t eat any pancakes (we will prepare our own vegan pancakes at home with the maple syrup!), lots of people were devouring a delicious breakfast of pancakes and syrup. We were able to purchase maple syrup that was harvested right on site, and I got a maple candy lollipop made out of maple syrup! Yum!

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Fun fact: Canadian maple syrup is exported to approximately 50 countries, including its primary importer, the USA. In 2007, Canada produced 67.6 million pounds of maple syrup yet exported 67.7 to the U.S. using reserve supply from previous years to support the growing exportation demand.

While this maple syrup festival in Ontario is now over for the season, there are plenty of other maple syrup festivals in Ontario that run well into April. For a full listing, check out the website of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association. The fun at Mountsberg didn’t end at the Maple Syrup Festival – we also visited the Raptor Centre and Animals at Mountsberg.

Do you consume Canadian pure maple syrup? What types of food are unique to your country?

43 Responses

  1. Molly S
    | Reply

    I love maple syrup! So this would be my idea of a perfect day out :). And it sounds really interesting. I’d definitely be eating the pancakes, though…..

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      There were many people enjoying the pancakes! It was a little bit chilly outside, but nice and sunny, so it really was the perfect day! We were happy to bring home some maple syrup, too!

  2. Phoebe Thomas
    | Reply

    I wouldn’t care that it’s a touristy thing to do, it sounds like a great place to visit being a huge maple syrup fan. I can’t believe you say the best time for production is when the days are warm and the nights cold, with temps ranging from -5° to 5°c. Is 5°c considered warm in Canada???!!! That’s almost as chiily as it gets where I am.

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      Well….the days are warm and nights cold for mid-winter! I should have specified. Where we are, those daytime temps are getting a bit warmer for winter. But, in the summer, we have temperatures into 30+ degrees C during the day and evening sometimes, too! So, it gets really hot and quite humid here in the summer.

  3. That sounds like a festival i wouldn’t miss! 🙂

  4. Mrs Chasing the Donkey
    | Reply

    When we lived in Australia, we’d buy only Canadian syrup – NOTHING compares. Here in Croatia we just use locally made honey, and as nice as it is, it ain’t the same…. Fab to have you with us for #SundayTraveler again.

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      Maple syrup is quite unique and really tasty. Locally made honey sounds really lovely though, too! We tend to keep a lot of maple syrup around in our household 🙂

  5. Brianna @ The Casual Travelist
    | Reply

    As far as I’m concerned most breakfast items merely serve as a delivery vehicle for maple syrup

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      This is true! If there weren’t maple syrup around, I don’t think I would eat pancakes!

  6. frankaboutcroatia
    | Reply

    There is nothing like a visit to the cabane à sucre in April. Love it and miss it here in Croatia now. Didn’t they roll the hot syrup over the bed of ice for you to make your own lollipops?

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      I thought they were going to do this, but I didn’t see it! So, either we missed it, or they didn’t do it. That was one thing Justin asked about as he went to one when he was a kid where they did this. Oh well!

  7. eemusings (NZMuse)
    | Reply

    Making pancakes this weekend all I could think about was all the great maple syrup I enjoyed in Canada and New England. Sigh.

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      Aww sorry !! Are you able to find it where you are, or is it quite expensive? I find that pure maple syrup can even be expensive here as well, but I can understand why….so much sap goes to make a little bit of syrup!

  8. Agness
    | Reply

    Ok, I knew Canadians were obsessed with their maple syrup and they could not have their breakfast and lunch and dinner without it on top, but Maple Syrup Festival? That’s so cool :)!!!

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      Oh yes, we are definitely known for our maple syrup 🙂 Not to mention that there were actually several different festivals in the area that we could have attended. It was great to see the process of how it is made!

  9. Going to a Sugar Shack and seeing Maple Syrup produced from the tree to the plate is a bucket list item for me. In Malaysia, maple syrup is very much a luxury item, so I don’t get to enjoy it very much.

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      I hope that you get the chance to do it someday, it was a lot of fun! And you get to eat lots of maple syrup 🙂

  10. LILY LA
    | Reply

    I was thinking when I read the title of this post that it was the most Canadian festival ever! But such a great experience to see how it’s made. I love maple syrup, every time I visit my family over there, I always bring a big bottle (in the shape of a maple leaf) back home with me to put on my pancakes 🙂 thanks for sharing!

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      I think it is the most Canadian festival ever haha! Thanks for reading 🙂 We love maple syrup too!!

  11. slightly astray
    | Reply

    Yuuuummmm! I’m pretty hungry right now, so pancakes with real maple syrup sounds so heavenly!! That’s something I’d love to do one day if I ever get to visit Canada!

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      You definitely should when you visit Canada someday! I’m hungry right now too and would love some pancakes right about now haha!

  12. Angela Anderson
    | Reply

    I grew up making maple syrup and tapping maple trees. We had a “sugar shack” in my back yard. Even though I am not from Canada, my hometown had a local maple festival, which was always very fun. Love maple candies and maple cotton candy!

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      Oh wow, you had one in your backyard! That is so amazing! Maple cotton candy – I’ve never had that but that sounds SO good! Would love to try it sometime!

  13. Rachel
    | Reply

    To see how a product is being made from scratch is quite fascinating, as always. Not to mention its harvesting procedure, simple but delicate. I think I need to see how it’s done.

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      It is a very interesting process and it is pretty neat that it hasn’t changed over time all that much! It was really cool to see everything in action!

  14. Adelina | Pack Me To
    | Reply

    I think I make a poor Canadian. I really dislike maple syrup. It’s too sweet for me. That said, I did visit a maple syrup shack when I was in Quebec years ago and learned how it was all made and tried my hand at making some maple candy on ice. Lots of fun! It’s not cold enough in Vancouver for this sort of thing. Thanks for linking up again guys 🙂

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      Aww it’s okay, we all don’t have to love maple syrup! 🙂 That would be fun to make maple candy!

  15. Ashley Hubbard
    | Reply

    I’ve watched something on the Travel Channel or something about this. Very fascinating the way it’s made! Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTRaveler 🙂

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      It is really fascinating and cool how the process hasn’t changed that much over the years!

  16. The whole maple syrup festival and extraction has always fascinated me. What a great way to spend the day and I love that you get pancakes at the end. It just looks like a fun activity no matter what age you are.

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      It was a really enjoyable day, coupled with the birds of prey show afterwards! Everyone was having so much fun!

  17. Katrina
    | Reply

    We definitely consume Canadian maple syrup! And quite a bit of it, too! Going to a syrup festival might be a very stereotypical thing to do, but it makes for a great blog post!

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      It was great to see how maple syrup was made considering how we eat so much of it!

  18. Ming Lim
    | Reply

    For health reasons, I can only eat half a teaspoon of maple syrup at a time, or just use the sugar free kind (yes, yes, it’s not the same.) But that wouldn’t make checking out a maple syrup festival any less fun for me, and I’d definitely want a maple syrup lollipop as a souvenir.

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      I’m glad you’d still be into checking it out even though you couldn’t eat too much of it at once! We still had fun at the festival despite not being able to eat the pancakes (we’re both vegan) – but we can make pancakes at home, and we brought home some maple syrup from there 🙂 The maple syrup lollipop was very yummy – I don’t eat a lot of candy, but it was something I had to have!

  19. Taylor Hearts Travel
    | Reply

    Wow, I didn’t even know this sort of festival existed! Looks fun and really interesting. There are a lot of foodie festivals in the UK, ranging from small village ones to big city events. This weekend I collected elderflower and started the process to make my own elderflower champagne. Perhaps not as sweet as maple syrup, but still fun!

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      That’s so interesting – I would love to even taste elderflower champagne, nevermind make it! But that is totally right up my alley. I love making things from scratch! We have some great foodie festivals here, my favorite being the Vegetarian Food Fair in Toronto every September – the largest of its kind in North America! I’ve also attended a Garlic Festival in the past – that was quite fun! Lots of stinky breath though I bet 🙂

      • Taylor Hearts Travel
        | Reply

        Oh you should definitely try some. It’s really refreshing. I’d post you a bottle but I don’t think it would make it!

        I would love to go to the Vegetarian Food Fair AND to Toronto! I think I might pass on the Garlic Festival though!

        • Justin and Lauren
          | Reply

          Haha thanks for suggesting that, I don’t think it would make it either. I’ll look forward to trying it someday though 🙂 And yes you should come to Toronto! If you do come to Toronto, the veggie food fair is the first weekend in September. I blogged about it here a little while back. And if you ever do come to Toronto let me know and we can meet up!

  20. This is SO interesting! I never knew they collect the sap like that …

    • Justin and Lauren
      | Reply

      We found it to be really interesting as well! It was cool to see the entire process and how it really hasn’t changed after all of these years!

  21. […] Conservation Area, Milton: Hike the trails in the summer, and go for the maple syrup festival in the […]

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