A couple of weekends back I got the chance to finally check out the Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival. I’ve been anticipating the festival for a while now, and even preparing by upping my maple syrup intake through various recipes.
I had a couple of objectives I wanted to achieve at the Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival, so I’ll give you a run-down of the results.
1. Win the pancake eating competition.
I felt pretty confident that I could win this competition. While I’ve only been in one other eating competition (which I won), I’ve have a good deal of experience with power eating as a former athlete and middle child (all you middle children know what I’m talking about, we don’t like sharing.) I’m sad to report that I did not make it in time. Poor weather slowed my departure, and I wanted to enjoy my drive through the Greenbelt countryside rather than high-tailing it out there. I was definitely disappointed, but the Festival had so many other things going-on that my spirits quickly picked up.
2. Find out how maple syrup is traditionally made.
Check. At the park there was a large cauldron of maple water boiling on top of a fire. I didn’t know but the sap actually looks like water coming out of the sugar maple trees. The custom of collecting maple water and boiling it to create syrup comes to us from the Amerindians in the 1500’s. They would cut a tap with a tomahawk and fix a wooden wedge below the notch, which would then direct the maple water to a bark container. The sap was then boiled in clay pots to obtain maple syrup.
Boiling the maple water can take hours, and it only becomes maple syrup when it reaches 66.9% sugar. I learned that it requires an average of 40 litres of maple water to obtain one litre of syrup.
I also had a personal myth busted. Apparently, maple syrup grades have nothing to do with quality. All grades are the same quality. Instead grades correspond to how light or dark the colour of the maple syrup is. The colour class of the syrup is determined by the amount of light that will pass through it. The more the light that passes through, the higher the colour class will be. A rule of thumb is, the darker the syrup the bolder the flavour.
3. Eat pancakes at the Legion, because Legion pancakes are always the best.
This was my second Legion pancake breakfast of the year. My first was in Cannington Dog Sled Races and Winter Festival. The Sunderland flapjacks easily rivaled the ones I had in Cannington. They were big, thick, not too sweet, and accompanied by local maple syrup. What I would really like to see is some of these Greenbelt town’s go head-to-head in a pancake competition. I nominate myself as an official judge.
4. Buy some maple syrup.
If I wasn’t going to leave with first prize in the pancake eating competition, I had to walk away with a least a litre of local maple syrup. There were a few options to choose from but I ended up getting going with Bountiful Harvest’s organic maple syrup. I tried some the other day, and it’s excellent! I wondered if there was a certain way you’re supposed to taste maple syrup – kind of like how you’re supposed to swirl good wine around in the glass, poke your nose in, and then drink.
I even got enough to have our own little pancake festival at work.
3/4 objectives completed isn’t bad. There was a lot more to do and see, including pony rides and horse and wagon rides, an arts and crafts show, musical entertainment, a midway, bath tub races, bus tours of maple syrup farms. I’ll definitely be headed back next year.
Call me if you want to have a pancake eating competition. You bring the pancakes, I’ll supply the syrup.
-- Bronwyn Whyte, Program Officer