If you are a lover of maple syrup, now is the time of year to head to the bush in Canada to watch the harvest and partake in some delicious products. My first experience of “sugaring off” was in Quebec almost 50 years ago. This past weekend I visited the “Kinsmen Fanshawe Sugar Bush”:http://www.kinsmenfanshawesugarbush.com in London, Ontario for a refresher. This is a yearly fundraising event for the Kinsmen.
Once you leave the pavement, the road can be quite muddy, but it’s worth the trip. It costs $3/adults and $3/children to enter and that covers a horse-drawn wagon ride (beautiful Belgian draft horses) out to the exhibits in the bush and a guided tour of the history of boiling down the sap from the maple trees. The first stop by the North Thames River is at a typical First Nations camp showing how they would boil the sap in a dug out log. They would move rocks from the fire into the sap in order to boil it down to sugar. It takes a long time and it takes a lot of sap to make maple syrup and sugar – a 40 to 1 ratio. The next stop on the tour is a demonstration of how the European settlers would use different sizes of pots over an open fire to boil down the sap. There is also a large flat metal pan over a fire method and the current method with different levels of troughs using gravity along with boiling the sap in evaporators.
You can also see the different methods of collection in the bush from bark containers to buckets of various materials to the modern use of interconnected vacuum pumped plastic pipes from the trees running into the collection bins at the boiling hut. There are trails through the bush as well so you can explore and walk back to the pancake house if you don’t want to ride back in the wagon.
At the pancake house you can order pancakes and/or sausage and hot/cold drinks and sample some of the maple syrup. You fill out a paper sheet with your order and your name and when it’s ready they call you up. I went for two pancakes with warm maple syrup and a hot chocolate (for a total of $4.75) and chose to sit outside in the sunshine. The pancake house is warmed via wood stoves and around the walls are displays of utensils used in the past. Prices are reasonable and the volunteers work quickly to keep the orders coming through. You can also purchase bottles of maple syrup and maple sweets. Bring cash because they do not accept credit or debit.