I’m originally from “La Belle Province” (the beautiful province) which is Québec’s nickname. I lived there until my early 20’s and then from there I moved to Ontario. Québec’s ethnicity sets it apart from the rest of the country. The obvious distinction is the majority of people in that province are French and speak the language. Even the culture is different compared with the other provinces and territories. It has a European flare and a more relaxing “attitude” – une joie de vivre – as we like to say!
Another facet that sets this province apart from the rest of Canada is its foods. Not only does Québec have its traditional dishes such as poutine, tourtière, creton, pouding au chômeur and many more but it is also the largest producer in the world when it comes to maple syrup! Québec is responsible for supplying over 75% worldwide… now that should tell you something.
It’s actually a big deal when the producers collect the sap from the maple trees during spring. It is a gastronomic ritual among us Québécois (Quebecers in English). Starting at the beginning of March and for nearly two months, there are sugar shacks everywhere and people gather together enjoying the harvest. With long wood tables next to each other in a very casual ambiance, the guests enjoy dishes that are cooked with or in maple syrup. Oversized plates are delivered and each person serves themselves just like they would do at home, passing each plate on to the stranger sitting next to them. The traditional meals that can be found on those tables are pea soup, scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausages in syrup, ham, salted lard crisps, creton, baked beans, meat pies, boiled potatoes, coleslaw, sugar pies, pouding au chômeur (poor man’s pudding) along with fresh bread, salt and pepper plus bottles of maple syrup to pour more on if a person wants to – like it’s not sweet enough as it is… lol! Live folk music is played and at any time during the meal – and after – , patrons can get up and dance on that rustic old wood floor.
Another fun thing to do when going to a sugar shack is to step outside and wait until one of the people working there comes along with boiling maple syrup and pours it on clean, white snow. On contact, the syrup hardens and the guests quickly roll it on a small popsicle stick. It is called maple syrup taffy or snow candy… take your pick!
There’s another dish that I’m not really sure if it originated in Québec but we sure enjoy the flavor. It is Maple Walnut Ice Cream. With all these traditional dishes cooked with maple syrup, I would presume this cold treat could’ve come from there but I won’t venture to say it affirmatively. On the other hand who cares where it came from because what really matters is how flavorful and delicious this ice cream is! With the crunchy taste from the walnuts, this lovely recipe is exactly what you need this summer. I don’t make “wet walnuts” as many recipes out there suggest because the maple flavor is already quite intense but I definitely roast them in the oven. This little step makes such a huge impact on this recipe. It elevates the taste and aroma of the nuts… definitely a must do.
Do Québécois have a sweet tooth? I guess we do but so does the rest of the world when it comes to maple syrup. This is probably the most popular food item that people who travel to Québec love to bring back home. Now if you’ve never been to Québec, this cold treat will give you a “taste” – of it. Bon Appétit!