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Satisfy your spring sweet tooth at a sugar shack

Darryl Leniuk for The Globe and Mail/darryl leniuk The Globe and Mail

What's the deal?

Get a look at how maple syrup is made, the old-fashioned way.

Where's it at?

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Maple syrup has been produced in Quebec since before the Europeans arrived. Early French settlers adopted the practice and it has been woven into the fabric of the province ever since.

To make your own, you need a drill or wood bore, a spile to insert into the trunk, a collecting bucket and, of course, a maple tree. Timing is everything. The season lasts only a few weeks, depending on the winter, and normally peaks in March or April. Nights that drop to -5 C and days that warm to about 5 C are ideal for sending water and sap up the trunk. But this year's warm weather has played havoc with the sap flow.An average tree will produce six to seven litres of maple water a day, and you'll need about 40 litres to boil down into one litre of syrup. This is best done in a cabane à sucre, or sugar shack, with a work party that is more party than work.

If that sounds like too much effort, head to L'En-Tailleur, a sugar shack that has been operated by the same family since 1772, on Île d'Orléans, a pastoral island in the St. Lawrence, famous for agri-tourism in the summer, five kilometres downriver of Quebec City. Until Easter weekend, you can watch the harvesting process, which still uses time-honoured techniques, try maple taffy made on the snow and chow down on a traditional sugar-shack meal: pea soup, ham, beans, pork rinds, pancakes and sugar pie, all washed down with maple syrup, of course.

Who's it for?

Those who like tradition and lots of sweet, heavy food. A tour and traditional sugar shack meal costs $22 a person. entailleur.com; iledorleans.com/eng.

In Ontario this weekend, stop by the Elmira and Prince Edward County maple syrup festivals. Find a festival near you at ontariomaple.com; novascotiamaplesyrup.com; and in New Brunswick: maple.infor.ca/visit_a_sugar_bush.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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