Sugar Moon is the name North American Aboriginals use for the sugaring season.
After a morning of meetings at the gorgeous Tatamagouche Centre, we were more than ready to escape its hallowed halls to breath in the fresh Spring Nova Scotia air! Off to Scott Whitelaw and Quita Gray’s Sugar Moon Farm and Maple Cabin for lunch! I had the opportunity to be in Quebec in April in 2011 when the maple was running and went to Cabin Sucre, one of the oldest Maple Sugar Shacks in the province. The tradition and the foods there, are different from the Nova Scotia Sugar Cabins. And, as Scott so aptly added during his presentation, later: “The terroir adds so much to the distinctness of flavour from one maple syrup farm to another. Each is so different.”
Sugar Moon Farm: Meet Scott and Quita!
I have known Scott “cyberly” for a few years, and to actually meet him, and visit his maple farm was such a treat. He and Quita have lived on this 200 acres of woods and cleared land for 20 years. “Our lives are steeped in maple: We don’t go a day without eating it. And after all these years, we remain spellbound by the magical process of making maple syrup.”
The day was chilly and the warmth and brightness of the Sugar Moon Farm cabin was welcoming.
Sugar Moon Farm: Cabane Sucre
Set for company! My first experience was in the Vallée de la Batiscan and I recall turning my nose up at “pouring maple syrup on everything” on my plate. “Oh, but you must!” I was told. “It is particularly delicious on bacon and eggs.” What the heck. I tried it. They were right! I confess, I haven’t eaten that way since, but I am not a bacon and egg gal.
Now, here I am again, at a maple syrup fest and the first thing I noted was the darkness of the syrup. I hadn’t seen it so dark, before.
Sugar Moon Farm: Cabane Sucre Breakfast
Warm, fragrant biscuits were served with a milky syrupy somethin’ somethin’ that I learned was maple butter. How do they make this? Inquiring minds want to know! This maple butter was absolutely deadly delicious. Not tooth-achingly sweet, which I would have expected, but sumptuous and rich and addictive.
I do recall bacon and eggs and deep fried pigs ears at the Quebec Sugar Shack – with other items, too… so the brown beans, and pancakes and sausage surprised me. I was expecting that the sugar shack tradition would be the same here, yet – why? The apple juice was pressed and what I call Nectar of the Gods. The beans are a staple in this neck of the woods and were a mighty tasty brown bean. Everyone was raving about the whole wheat pancakes and the sausage was the best of all. Very much like a smoky, and I don’t even eat meat. “Pour syrup on everything!” was the mantra. This time, I just could not. The beans were sweet enough. The sausage was already very tasty, and I prefer butter on my pancakes.
What a party pooper, eh? Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my time here, particularly the maple syrup tasting I did at the end, all by myself. Well, Kevin kept me company.
Sugar Moon Farm: Cabane Sucre Lesson in Making Maple Syrup
Scott explained the sugar taping process, and how the technology has changed, over time. He also explained how he works to keep Sugar Moon Farm sustainable and clearly he is a good steward of the land. I was captivated as he explained the prices that he has received for the syrup over time, and the amount he used to produce compared to how much less the family produces now, due to the loss of many mature trees to a huge storm.He needs to get 40 litres of sap to make one litre or syrup – that is astounding and once you know this, you understand why maple syrup is as precious as it is.
Each tree is tapped once a year, in a different place each time. This cross section indicates the scar tissue over time, or a tree that has been tapped through the years.
I don’t know why my jaw drops when I am led into a very professional area of a production facility on a farm. It just does. Every time. I am consistently in awe of how hard farmers must physically work.
Sugar Moon Farm: Maple Syrup Tasting
There were four syrups available for tasting: light to dark = early season to late season syrups.
People seemed to prefer either the lightest or the darkest syrup. The darkest is the most robust and what one would identify as possessing the quintessential maple syrup flavour. The lightest is subtle and gentle and whispers Spring and the promise of boldness to come, yet beacons me back for more. It is the one I prefer. The new syrup is delicate and precious and rare.
Sugar Moon Farm: Products for Sale!
Second day of the trip, and I have a gallon of Maple Syrup in my freezer at home from a Quebec farmer who lives in Edmonton part time… how silly of me. I didn’t buy anything. Oh, regret! How I would love to compare the terroir of the syrup I have with this one. And the maple butter! Oh, such sincere regret!
Vanja and I later visited Mrs. MacGregor’s shop in Pictou and spoke to “her”. If only I had known how precious these really were!
Sugar candies and so much more!
Sugar Moon Farm: In Closing
Scott and Quita have taken this hand hewn home from its initial old world owner and continued their work with that same level of integrity and intensity of passion. A day of hiking, eating, and maple sugar learning would certainly be a full family fun day to spend together at Sugar Moon Farm when in the area. The history, art work and culture of the area exudes from every plank of wood in this cabin.