March 24, 2009
When spring comes to Quebec, we have normal winter-like days, by international standards. There’s snow on the ground, but since the temperatures are mild (-10C/14F), there’s no suffering when you go trekking. It’s also le temps de sucres (sugar time!), i.e. the time of the year when you go visit the cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks). A cabane à sucre is a rustic place right in the woods where the maple sap is boiled to turn it into maple syrup. The maple sap flows when you have a continuum of above-freezing temperatures followed by below-freezing temperatures. That’s exactly what happens in Quebec from the beginning of spring until Easter. During sugaring season, a mature maple tree produces about 40 liters (10 gal) of sap, which when boiled down turns into only 1 liter (1 quart) of maple syrup!
Not just maple syrup can be found in a sugar shack. When you boil maple sap, first you get maple syrup, then maple butter (which is REALLY good), and then maple sugar. And between maple syrup and maple butter, maple sap gets the perfect sugaring point to make the most scrumptious treat you can make with maple (my humble opinion): tire d'érable or maple toffee. The hot liquid is poured directly onto snow, and the cold snow solidifies the maple sap and you get a soft maple candy! To lift the maple toffee you take a wooden stick and roll it to get the candy! It’s SO good!
Now, let’s go to my very own tribute to Quebec and its cuisine, my Italian Canadian cupcakes!
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 stick of butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
⅓ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup blueberry jam
3 Tbsp milk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbsp blueberry syrup
1 Tbsp maple syrup
In a bowl, beat the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs one by one, beating continuously. Add the milk, the maple syrup and the blueberry jam. Stir to incorporate. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder. Little by little, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir to incorporate. Preheat the oven to 325F. Use some cooking spray on your muffin pan, and then scoop the batter into the pan. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Prepare the glaze by adding the blueberry syrup and the maple syrup to the sugar. If the icing is too dry, add a little bit more syrup. If it’s too wet, add a little bit more the icing sugar. When the cupcakes are cool, coat them with the blueberry and maple glaze.
75% of the world production of maple syrup comes from Quebec, and that’s almost 85% of the Canadian production! So what is Canada's share of world maple syrup production (algebra problem!!)?
I made my express blueberry jam with just a touch more water. This way, the jam turned a bit more liquid, so I was able to get some blueberry syrup from the liquid part of the jam.
Ricotta blueberry muffins
Crostata ai mirtilli
Frutti di bosco jam
Protein-rich blueberry sorbet