Making maple syrup with dad — Quebec Maple Syrup Pie

This Apron Strings con­test sub­mis­sion comes from Aube Giroux, a doc­u­men­tary film­maker and food blog­ger, won Saveur magazine’s Best Single Video about prepar­ing rum babas for her late mother’s knit­ting club friends back in the Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia. (congrats Aube!)  This story has been con­densed from an arti­cle she wrote for this year’s spring issue of Edible Toronto mag­a­zine — you can see accom­pa­ny­ing pho­tos and a video of my dad mak­ing maple syrup & me mak­ing maple syrup pie on my video cook­ing blog on the kitchen­vi­gnettes blog

Photo Credit: Aube Giroux

Last year I received a bot­tle of home­made maple syrup from my dad. For sev­eral years now, he has been tap­ping five large maple trees on his prop­erty just east of Montreal. He loves to brag about how energy effi­cient his process is since he evap­o­rates the sap in big pots right on his wood­stove, which is chug­ging away all win­ter regard­less, heat­ing up his whole house. He jokes that it’s the lazy way to do it, since the maple syrup basi­cally makes itself. To get a litre of maple syrup, you need forty litres of sap, so it takes some time for that much water to evap­o­rate, espe­cially when you’re doing it the slow way, like my dad.

This year I joined my dad on his maple syrup-making adven­ture. He and I have always been close but, since my par­ents sep­a­rated soon after I was born, I never actu­ally lived with him until I was 17 years old. Some of my favourite moments dur­ing the two years we lived together were the mid­night snacks we occa­sion­ally shared after he came home from his evening nurs­ing shifts. Often, this con­sisted of a slice of bread soaked in a bowl­ful of maple syrup. Of course, we both knew the bread was just a flimsy excuse to guz­zle down an oth­er­wise embar­rass­ing amount of syrup. Every now and then, he would buy a maple syrup pie, a tra­di­tional Quebec dessert, and we would eat it together.

My dad has always man­aged to get by on very lit­tle and there is a French expres­sion that he has been repeat­ing to me ever since I was a kid. It roughly trans­lates as: It’s hard enough being poor, why make the mat­ter worse by liv­ing as though you were. Of course it sounds bet­ter in French but the gist is that you don’t need money to enjoy the finer things in life. And my dad has always found a way to sur­round him­self with beau­ti­ful things: wild flow­ers on the kitchen table, sub­lime choral music on his stereo every morn­ing, an antique dresser sal­vaged from the side of the road and brought back to life, and other such dis­carded trea­sures. This thrifti­ness, cou­pled with a whole­hearted com­mit­ment to the pur­suit of beauty and plea­sure, was a guid­ing prin­ci­ple in my family.

The most pre­cious moments of my child­hood were wit­ness­ing my par­ents’ abil­i­ties to cul­ti­vate, use, and appre­ci­ate the tasty trea­sures that nature show­ers upon us. My dad says that maple syrup is a gift from nature, one which we can choose whether or not to accept. In his own words, he thinks it would almost show neg­li­gence on his part not to take this gift given that he is sur­rounded by large sugar maples. Ironically, he lives just up the road from a com­mer­cial maple syrup pro­ducer and has always had access to all the maple syrup he wants. It’s obvi­ous that the choice to make his own comes from the tremen­dous enjoy­ment and sat­is­fac­tion that he expe­ri­ences from the process. It reminds me of a quote I’ve noticed float­ing around on the inter­net: Happiness is homemade.

Early this spring, I made the trek from down­town Toronto to my dad’s lit­tle piece of par­adise in the woods, on a quiet, iso­lated moun­tain­top near Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle, Quebec. With the birds gos­sip­ping away and the wind whis­per­ing promises of warmer days ahead, it’s easy to see why he loves this spring­time rit­ual so much. Walking in the woods together, we drank sap straight out of the cold metal buck­ets. Refreshing and invig­o­rat­ing, the icy liq­uid jolted us out of our win­ter slug­gish­ness. After we poured buck­ets of sap into a big metal pot, we sat back, warmed our toes, and let the wood­stove do the rest of the work. The intox­i­cat­ing smell of maple infil­trated every cor­ner of the house and my dad and I delighted in sam­pling the sap at each and every step of the way, tast­ing the flavour and sweet­ness inten­si­fy­ing as the liq­uid grad­u­ally changed, reduced and thick­ened into syrup. I recall these won­der­ful spring­time moments shared together when­ever I pour maple syrup on my crepes and when­ever I make the recipe I’m shar­ing with you here for maple syrup pie. Merci Papa!

***

MAPLE SYRUP PIE

Pastry
1 batch of your favourite pie crust pastry

Filling
1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
1/2 cup but­ter
1/2 cup whip­ping (35%) cream
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs

Roll out the dough and place it in a 9-inch pie plate. Place in the refrig­er­a­tor until the fill­ing is ready.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the maple syrup just to a boil. Cook the maple syrup at a gen­tle bub­ble, reduc­ing the heat if nec­es­sary, for 5 min­utes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the but­ter until melted. Stir in the cream. Transfer about 1/2-cup of the mix­ture to a small bowl; whisk in the flour and salt and then whisk this back into the mix­ture in the saucepan. Allow to cool slightly. Beat the eggs and whisk them into the mix­ture in the saucepan. Pour the fill­ing into the pie shell. Bake in a 325 to 350º oven until the cen­tre is golden brown and bub­bly, and firm when lightly touched, about 45 minutes.

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  • Ellie Calister

    I love it! This is the best thing I’ve read all week. Thanks for sharing.

  • igknight

    glad you liked it!