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Digital Subscriptions > delicious. Magazine > February 2019 > Where life is sweet and the welcome warm (once the snow melts)

Where life is sweet and the welcome warm (once the snow melts)

When winter begins to loosen its icy grip, there’s cause for celebration in Quebec – and it’s not just because spring is around the corner. Claire Nelson visited a traditional sugar shack during maple season and had a come-back-for-more taste of the local hospitality

The deep freeze of the Canadian winter is coming to an end, and with it the thawing of snow, the first optimistic buds appearing on trees and the faint sound of honking as geese return to the lakes. Across this vast, rugged country, Canadians are preparing for what might just be the most anticipated time of the year: maple season.

There’s no denying the ties that bind Canada with all things maple – it’s as much a part of the culture as ice hockey. The maple leaf is the symbol on the national flag, after all. And if maple syrup is the blood that runs through Canada’s veins, then Quebec is its beating heart. Nearly 70 per cent of the world’s maple syrup comes from this single province.

Quebec is noticeably different from the rest of the country – and this is a point of pride. The region was originally colonised by France, and when it later fell to the British, the French-Canadians held on tight to their heritage. Today the province is predominantly Frenchspeaking (it’s the official language), and expressions of Europe are everywhere, in the classical architecture of Quebec City and the countless boulangeries. But it’s still Canada, and what you get is an undeniable je ne sais quoi set among the breathtaking North American wilderness.

Embraced by the province of Ontario to the west and New Brunswick to the east, Quebec is divided lopsidedly in two by the St Lawrence River. The colossal northern region is charged with wild lakes and rivers and stretches right up into the Arctic tundra. In winter it’s an area for skiing, snowshoeing and dog-sledding.

The tiny sliver of southern Quebec is pinned to the northern part by the two major cities (Montreal and Quebec City) which span the river and contain most of the province’s population. Southern Quebec is also home to most of the province’s 13,500 maple syrup producers, making this the prime destination for people on the maple trail.

THE SWEET SPOT

Sugaring – the collection of maple sap – takes place in early spring, when temperatures hit the sweet spot between freezing nights and warmer days. The finely balanced temperature fluctuation builds pressure inside the tree and encourages the sap to flow. The season lasts for about six weeks, during which time the trunks are tapped continuously until temperatures creep up a few more degrees, the sap stops and it’s all over for another year.

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About delicious. Magazine

Happiness is… the keep-you-warm February issue of delicious. magazine: try Dan Doherty’s home cooking (spicy beef stew with cheddar scone topping, mmm), childhood favourites reinvented by Georgina Hayden and a Chinese New Year feast from Ching-He Huang. Share the love with our Valentine’s Day ideas and spice up your life with Judy Joo’s KFC (Korean Fried Chicken, that is) and Chetna Makan’s healthy Indian suppers. Our expert cooks’ tips will have you cooking like a pro, ready to tackle an Italian-style pork roast, foolproof cheese soufflé or Richard Bertinet’s flaky kouign amann. It’s easy when we show you how.