Quebec’s sugar shacks, closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are getting back on track

Pierre Faucher, owner of La Sucrerie de la Montagne, tastes some of the first sugar shack runs of the season in Rigaud, Quebec.Photography by Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

La Sucrerie de la Montagne, a sugar shack located about 70 kilometers west of Montreal, has reopened to the public after being closed for two years due to the pandemic.

Owner Pierre Faucher remembers closing on March 15, 2020, just at the start of maple syrup season.

“I never thought I would miss a sugaring off season,” says Faucher, who took over a small maple farm 45 years ago and built it to create what he calls a distinctive Canadian experience: a place to showcase traditional methods of making maple syrup, as well as Quebec music and food, which visitors come from all over the world to enjoy.

The first year of the pandemic “knocked us out,” says Faucher. If not for the 35,000 guests who would have visited over two months, “we ended up with food in our fridges,” he says, adding that they donated a lot of it.

Last year, the sugar shack started delivering boxes of food to homes. Each included pea soup, homemade bread, maple-glazed ham, country sausage, meat pie, meatballs, beans, soufflé, pancakes, and cheese pie. sugar.

They made about 3,000 boxes serving four people each, only a third of their regular business. But they were grateful to the regular customers who supported them.

As difficult as the past two years have been financially, Faucher sees the positive side. The pandemic has brought his family closer together. “While most people were locked up, we were running around in the woods making maple syrup,” he says.

He remembers his 10-year-old granddaughter telling him that normally during maple syrup season she would only see him to say hello, but now they were together all the time, harvesting the syrup as a family.

While the Quebec government finally lifted most of the public health measures associated with COVID-19, the sugar shack and its restaurant were able to open in March. Now the problem is the lack of staff.

“Normally, we hire 120 people, specifies Mr. Faucher. “This year we have 30.″

They can only handle between 650 and 700 visitors per day when they could usually handle 1,700.

Apart from these problems, the season looks promising. They started boiling maple syrup on March 18, and with hot days and cold nights, it’s off to a great start.

Quebec is the world leader in annual maple syrup production, representing more than 70% of the world’s supply.

About 40 liters of maple sap will produce one liter of syrup and each tree produces on average one liter of syrup per year.

Mr. Faucher says it’s great to see visitors again and to offer them the experience of the sugar shack.

“In French, we say reunionhe says, struggling for the English translation. “Somewhere between being nice to rediscover and recognizing our friends we haven’t seen in a while.”

Basically, he says, “It’s just nice to be back.”

Claude Guignard collects the sap from one of the oldest trees and takes the sap from a bucket. The average maple produces enough sap per year to make one liter of syrup.

Simon Rozon, veteran syrup maker for 30 years, adds wood to the stove. This season, the sugar shack has a quarter of its usual staff, so it can only handle around 650 to 700 daily visitors instead of 1,700.

Maple taffy is poured for visitors on a bed of snow. La Sucrerie de la Montagne is proud of its traditional techniques for making maple syrup.

Some attractions of the cabin: Lisa Marie Morini, 11 months, dances to traditional Quebec music; horse-drawn wagons circle the property; Mr. Faucher speaks with the guests. Mr. Faucher says it is gratifying to see people again.

Rachel J. Bradford