How Sugaring Off Works in Montreal:
- Some Visit Montreal's Urban Sugar Shacks
- Others Prefer Traditional Cabanes à Sucre Outside Montreal
- What's a Cabane à Sucre?
Cabane à Sucre Option #1: The Montreal Urban Sugar Shack
Sugaring off is a cultural rite-of-passage in Montreal. A short-lived season that varies every year, somewhere from late February to early May, perhaps the best known activity, apart from visiting a sugar shack, is eating hot maple taffy on fresh snow. Maple taffy stands start appearing in town around early March near Mont-Royal Metro station and the Jean-Talon Market while urban sugar shacks usually kick off their season in March, sometimes April. And while they all soothe urgent maple cravings, they also bring up the nostalgia for an authentic sugar shack, or cabane à sucre, experience.
Montreal Urban Sugar Shacks to Check Out
Cabane à Sucre Option #2: The Traditional Sugar Shack Experience
But let's face it. The real sugaring off happens outside Montreal, in the 200 or so sugar shacks spread out across the province of Quebec. From sleigh rides to learning how maple syrup is made to checking out sugar shack mini-farms, there's plenty to do before stuffing up on the pièce de résistance, the all-you-can-eat maple-drenched dinner. For example, take what I consider the most interesting sugar shacks one hour from Montreal. They propose activities as varied as massages, cross country skiing, pony rides and line dancing.
Nine Traditional Sugar Shacks Near Montreal
The Sugar Shack Meal
So locals know what to expect already. But for anyone new to Montreal and the very concept of offing sugar, here's a breakdown of what you can expect at your first sugar shack meal (unless you go to madman Martin Picard's Sugar Shack Au Pied de Cochon, where you can expect pretty much anything):
- pea soup
- baked beans in maple syrup
- tourtière (if you're lucky)
- country style sausages in maple syrup
- maple smoked ham
- "oreilles de crisse" ("crisse," a truly versatile Quebec swear word, translates into either "damn ears" or "Christ's ears," but they're actually pork rinds)
- oven baked omelettes
- eggs cooked in maple syrup
- sweet pickles
- sugar pie
- pouding chômeur (or "unemployed person's pudding," a deliciously simple cake baked with maple syrup or brown sugar)