Month: July 2014

A Maple Experience at Sugar Moon Farm, Nova Scotia, Canada

A Sugar Moon Farm window and bottles of Maple Syrup.

A Sugar Moon Farm window and bottles of Maple Syrup.

Along a road that winds through the backcountry of Nova Scotia, Canada, is the long lane up through blueberry fields to Sugar Moon Farm.

A 20 minute drive from Tatamagouche, on the north shore of Nova Scotia, the drive to get there is part of the adventure.

A true year round sugar bush experience, Sugar Moon Farm has set out to keep the history and taste of Nova Scotia Maple Syrup alive throughout the year.

The Cobequid mountain area is said to have some of the best sugar maples for making syrup.

 

Pancakes, a german sausage and maple syrup.

Pancakes, a german sausage and maple syrup.

Quita Gray and Scott Whitelaw and their three daughters have been running the Sugar Bush since 1996, when they bought the property from the previous owner who ran a smaller sugar bush and dining cabin.

Now this couple and their staff produce 1200 litres of maple syrup a year and run a busy eatery in a log building, where they serve a menu including pancakes, waffles and sausages with of course, all the real maple syrup you need. The pancakes were made with heritage Red Fyfe Flour, milled in this area, however the flour is increasingly hard to source because it is now classified as a protected food. They are more recently using Acadia Wheat from the Speerville Mills in New Brunswick. Their wheat is organic and fits with the quality values of Sugar Moon Farm.

 

 

Quita Gray explains how maple syrup is made on Sugar Moon Farm.

Quita Gray explains how maple syrup is made on Sugar Moon Farm.

Flipping pancakes sat Sugar Moon Farm

Flipping pancakes sat Sugar Moon Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the log cabin are long tables and benches, in front of an open-hearth fireplace, that gives the diner the feeling of having a meal in a logger’s camp. Waiting diners can watch the cook flipping pancakes on the grill, and we also enjoyed a syrup tasting and learning experience. Our server brought three bottles of maple syrup of differing colours to the table. We learned that the darkness and taste differs as the season progresses because of the change in soil minerals, and that affects the sap.

I read a section from a book from their collection, called Sugar Bush Antiques, by Virginia Vidler. It told a story about the First Nations history of collecting maple syrup, a tradition they taught to the settlers – a fine gift, that keeps on giving today. While there are many stories about how those of the First Nations discovered the sweet sap and to make syrup, this one was interesting. Here is a description of the tale. A grandmother accidentally cut a slit from the bark of a maple tree and when she saw liquid dripping down the bark, she tasted it and discovered how sweet it was. She showed her grandson, who told her that the sweet taste would make women lazy and to keep them busy, he boiled water and poured it over the trees to water down the sap. He then told them they should boil the sap to keep the women busy. The sap, boiled down became the syrup, which has been enjoyed since those times.

While we waited we were served fresh biscuits with maple butter, a sweet, caramel coloured topping. Our server told us that whipping pure maple syrup made the Maple Butter.

I poured maple syrup on three pancakes on the plate and dug into the juicy German smoked sausage. There were many other offerings on the menu, but I stuck to the traditional. I could have added Nova Scotia blueberries to the pancakes, but next time….

Sugar Moon farm collects their maple sap from their Sugar Maples using 2500 taps. As well, other local farmers provide them with sap that they boil down in their huge boiler, using wood to fuel the condenser.

An asset to the dining experience is the tour of the operation throughout the year, offered to each guest. A demonstration is given of how the collection of sap from the trees in brought to the boilers using plastic tubing. Quita always begins her tours with an acknowledgment that it was those of our First Nations that brought us maple syrup.

A video explains the process and a look at the boiling equipment, brings appreciation to the syrup we had just enjoyed.

During the winter, visitors can watch the process of making maple syrup. During the summer, hikers can enjoy the Rogart Mountain Trail, a 6.2 kilometre loop that begins and ends at the parking lot in the woods around the log restaurant. In the winter, the farm rents snowshoes, so a visit can include a tromp in the snow and a great meal.

Sugar Moon Farm also has frequent Chef’s Nights that turn the sugar shack into a high class and unique dining experience.

I have been to Sugar Moon Farm many times and every time I go, it is more special than the time before. Perhaps it is understanding the work it takes to make this special syrup from maple sap. Perhaps it is just the anticipation of the tastes or knowing that this taste has been around for centuries and it’s taste comes from the knowledge of the people of our First Nations.

I’ll be back to Sugar Moon Farm again.

Partly because Quita and I are thinking of planning a heritage meal event in the summer of 2015. Stay tuned, but in the meantime enjoy the pancakes….and syrup of course…

The road that leads to Sugar Moon Farm takes the visitor back in time to the sugar bush.

The road that leads to Sugar Moon Farm takes the visitor back in time to the sugar bush.

If you go….

Open every day from June 28 – Labour Day 8 am to 3pm

221 Alex MacDonald Road

Earltown, Nova Scotia (902)657-3348

info@sugarmoon.ca

http://www.sugarmoon.ca

 

 

 

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Tasting Bagosse with Leonce – in the Magdalen Islands

Leonce Arsenault holds a bottle of Bagosse in front of his shop.

Leonce Arsenault holds a bottle of Bagosse in front of his shop.

We turned right at the sign that read Le Barbocheux, and drove down a long lane leading to an old home to visit the man of the Magdalen Islands, we were told could tell us about Bagosse.

The Magdalen Islands or Îles De La Madeleine, are a group of 12 islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. The population of 12,000 plus residents, live in colourful homes on six islands linked by long and slender sand dunes. The islands are part of the province of Québec and the culture is mainly Acadian and French Canadian, although there is a small English speaking community of those of Scottish, Irish heritage. The islands can be reached by air and sea from Montreal or Prince Edward Island.

I had been told by a resident of the Magdalen Islands (a Madalinot), that for as long as memory, each family has kept a secret recipe for their home brew, called Bagosse.

Behind the counter was a man who I could see right away would not just sell us a bottle of Bagosse, but an experience.

Léonce Arsenault, does not just create “artisanales boissons,” (artisan drinks,) but is also every bit the raconteur. Léonce is a grand man, with a head of curly hair, and eyes that tell the story along with the tongue.

He started with this poem of unknown origin.

“The one who drink Bagosse                      P1220356

Get drunk

The one who get drunk,

Sleep

The one who sleep

Doesn’t sin,

If you want to go to heaven

Drink Bagosse”

Then Léonce told me the story of how Bagosse is made – it sounded simple, as if everyone could make it. And perhaps he is right, because it is a true tradition and many islanders I spoke to, both young and old, had a friend who still makes Bagosse.

“Water, sugar, and yeast” he said, that is the base.

After that, “Everything put on this earth is possible to put in Bagosse.”

I threw out some examples and he shook his curls, yes, everytime. Vegetables, flowers, anything that grows and is edible seems to work.

He shared with me the story of how the word Bagosse evolved. According to his tale, the Spanish upper class collected fruit and at the bottom of the barrel a residue was left that they simply threw away or gave to the poor. The starving poor at that time, added sugar, and water to the mixture and called it Bagadzo. This tradition was passed onto the French. The name has changed over time to Bagosse. Léonce said that everywhere the French went, they took Bagosse, so when they came to North America, it arrived with them.

Léonce knew that I wanted to learn about how families make Bagosse. He ran to his basement and brought up five dusty bottles, all partially full of alcohol, each one with a hand scribbled label.

He explained that he has collected 50 bottles of homemade Bagosse from families around the Magdalens. When family members come to his shop, he gives them a taste of the Bagosse of their ancestors. Léonce hopes to have an exhibition and display his collection next year.

Five bottles from Leonce's collection of fifty bottles of Bagosse from different families from the Magdalen Islands.

Five bottles from Leonce’s collection of fifty bottles of Bagosse from different families from the Magdalen Islands.

Léonce is licensed to produce and sell three kinds of Bagosse. Strawberry, Cranberry-Dandelion, and Blueberry. He produces other liqueurs and rhubarb flavoured sparkling L’Ariel, among other products. He gives tastings and talks.

The passion of Léonce for the Magdalen Islands was unmistakable. He talked about a dream to create a walking pilgrimage that would take visitors to see the true beauty of the islands, and his wish to have the Islands declared a World Heritage Site.

And then he told us the entire geological history and creation of the Magdalen Islands… and then we drove back up the lane clutching our bottle of Bagosse made by man with a taste for tradition.

 

Magdalen Islands Smokehouse – Le Fumoir D’Antan- A long tradition of smoked fish.

P1220261

 

I rubbed my stinging eyes and through the smoke, I could see the sun shining on the richly coloured coppery herring drying in the smokehouse. The fish glistened. The fires smoldered on the floor while high above hung poles strung with fish.

Daniel Arseneau is carrying on the tradition of smoking fish from his grandfather and father

Our tour guide opens the top door of the smokehouse to reveal the herring being smoked.

Our tour guide opens the top door of the smokehouse to reveal the herring being smoked.

and plans to pass it on to the next generation, to ensure that the quality of his          family’s skill lives on.

Le Fumoir D’Antan is a smokehouse operating in the original buildings of Antan’s grandfather’s business that started in 1940, on the island of Havre- aux-Maisons in the Magdalen Islands. A museum interprets the practice of smoking fish and if visitors arrive at a time when all fires are not smoking you can stand inside the smokehouse.

The Magdalen Islands or Îles De La Madeleine, are a group of 12 islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. The population of 12,000 plus residents live in colourful homes on six islands linked by long and slender sand dunes. The islands are part of the province of Québec and the culture is mainly Acadian and French Canadian, although there is a small English speaking community of those of Scottish and Irish heritage. The islands can be reached by air and sea from Montreal or Prince Edward Island.

The practice of smoking fish has been long practiced in the Magdalen Islands. Meat and fish were smoked by the Mi’Kmaq  population of the islands that passed through thousands of years ago. When the islands were settled, there were many smoke houses in operation, as this was a necessary way to preserve food before refrigeration.

Generations of the Arseneau family have been fishing and hard smoking herring.

 

Antan Arseneau in the shop of his family smokehouse Le Fumoir D'Antan

Daniel Arseneau in the shop of his family smokehouse Le Fumoir D’Antan

Daniel’s grandfather once employed 100 islanders and smoked 1 million pounds of fish. His smoked fish helped supply islanders and was imported to the Caribbean. By 1978, the herring population had declined so drastically that all island smokehouses were closed. In 1990, herring stocks recovered and in 1996, the business was revived after the restoration of the smokehouse. Now, 30,000 pounds of fish are smoked each year.

The process of smoking fish has not changed. The fish are caught and stored in salt water for several days before they are skewered whole onto long poles. Several men climb into the rafters of the smokehouse and form a human chain passing up the poles to be hung on the racks. Twenty- four fires are lit on the floor of the smokehouse using only maple and birch wood. The fires must be carefully minded, so the fish are not cooked, only smoked. It takes eight weeks to complete the smoking process.

“These islands have little wood, where did the wood used in fires come from?” observed a fellow tour member.

We learned that the wood for the fires has for many years been imported from Nova Scotia and now Prince Edward Island. And now the salt is imported as well as some of the fish that are smoked, such as salmon, scallops, cod and red fish. The seal population is high in the seas around the Magdalens causing a shortage of fish.

When the fish are dried they are removed from the poles, heads and tales are removed and they are filleted. Only 30% of the fish is used and the rest is used to produce animal feed. It is surprising that in the past, smoked fish remained whole and families could cook three meals from one fish.

Now the fish is eaten as a specialty item, and snack.

The foods of the Magdelens, at times, share the same mixing bowl. The smokehouse smokes the hops for the microbrewery À l’abri de la TEMPĒTE. The herring drips on the malt giving the beer a unique taste that one could only find in the Magdelen Islands.

How times have changed and yet those dedicated to preserving tradition, carry on. Thanks Daniel.

If you go…

To learn more about the Fumoir D’Antan at 27, Ch.du Quai call (418)969-4907

http://www.fumoirdantan.com

 

 

 

A Magdalen Island Microbrewery Experience – Drunk on the Past, at À l’abri de la TEMPĒTE

 

Jean Sebastien on the deck of his microbrewery A l'abri de la Tempete

Jean Sebastien on the deck of his microbrewery A l’abri de la Tempete

 

The taste of the beer was rich and woodsy, with overtones of Christmas trees and undertones of history. I dropped in to learn about the art of beer making in this ocean side microbrewery, but did not expect to find a “real taste of history.” I was in for a surprise or two.

À l’abri de la TEMPĒTE , translated Storm in a Barrel,is a microbrewery located on the island of L’Étang du Nord in the Magdalen Islands, Québec. It has been operating since June of 2004 under the artistry of brew master Jean- Sébastien. It was built on the site of an old crab-processing factory that is situated on dunes against a background of sea and sky.

The Magdalen Islands or Îles De La Madeleine, are a group of 12 islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. The population of 12,000 plus residents, live in colourful homes on six islands linked by long and slender sand dunes. The islands are part of the province of Québec and the culture is mainly Acadian and French Canadian, although there is a small English speaking community of those of Scottish, Irish heritage. The islands can be reached by air and sea from Montreal or Prince Edward Island.

After an excellent talk describing the beer making process, in view of the workers in the background making beer, we went upstairs for some tastings.

I spoke to brew master Jean Sébastien and explained my Dining Out With History project.

His eyes lit up as he explained the 2011 Annedd’Ale project that he was part of, and how it worked.

This project was established to introduce a unique beer from Québec that was produced using ingredients available in 1563.

Annedda (also spelled Aneda), means Tree of Life and is the French word for Balsam Fir. Balsam fir is of historic significance. When Jacques Cartier landed in North America with a ship of dying sailors in 1563, the Iroquois fed them tea made of balsam fir, which is accredited with saving many lives.

The first beer in Québec was made using the readily available balsam fir.

The 2011 Annedd’Ale project used yeast spores that came from the vaults of the first known commercial brewery established by Jean Talon in 1668, in Québec city. The project grew yeast from those spores and distributed it to six microbreweries with the challenge to create a new beer.

“You are lucky,” said Jean Sébastien, “I still have a few bottles of the Palabre de L’Intendant,” left in the vault.

A bottle of Palabre d'Intendent, a Balsam beer made as part of a project based on historic ingredients.

A bottle of Palabre d’Intendant, a Balsam beer made as part of a project based on historic ingredients.

The server poured the dark, rich beer into my glass and as I sipped, visions of the past raced through my mind. I felt privileged to truly taste “a bit of history,” knowing that the yeast in that beer had a very old base.

That special beer is no longer produced by Á l’abri de TĒMPETE, but the skill and knowledge is alive.

As mentioned in the other articles, the food artisans of the Magdelen Islands, blend their skills and resources to create some truly distinct tastes.

Jean Sébastien serves beer using malt that has been smoked over the fires of Le Fumoir D’Antan, a local fish smokehouse. The drippings from the herring above, flavour the malt. Local wildflowers, algae and herbs are also used to make a beer with a true Îles De La Madeleine taste.

As I sipped my beer and smelled the fresh sea air, the tastes of time turned back…for a moment.

See recipes for an old recipe for a Spruce Beer.

 

If you go:

alabridela.tempete.com

 

 

Magdalen Island Cheese – Heritage cows dine on sea touched grass

Black Canadienne cows graze. Their milk is used for making cheese at Fromagerie du Pied Vent

Black Canadienne cows graze. Their milk is used for making cheese at Fromagerie du Pied Vent

 

On the treeless green hills, I watched a herd of unusual looking cows grazing. What I didn’t know was that there are “magical” nutrients in the grasses of the Magdalen Islands.

The Magdalens or Îles De La Madeleine, are a group of 12 islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. The population of 12,000 plus residents live in colourful homes on six islands linked by long and slender sand dunes. The islands are part of the province of Québec and the culture is mainly Acadian and French Canadian, although there is a small English speaking community of those of Scottish and  Irish heritage. The islands can be reached by air and sea from Montreal or Prince Edward Island.

On a visit to the Fromagerie Pied–de–Vent on Havre–aux-Maisons, employee Gilberte Delaney told me the story of how a visitor from mainland Québec visited the original beef farm on this spot and tasted some milk from a dairy cow. He tasted a difference in the milk. Could it be the effects of the salty sea air on the rich plant life? He convinced the owner to give up his beef business and bring a special breed of dairy cow to the Magdalens from Québec called the “Canadienne.” And so it began. Two generations of the Arseneau family have been working this farm, and the cheese definitely has an exceptional taste. The current owner is Jérémie Arseneau who started the cheese production in 1998.

A visitor samples cheese at Pied-De-Vent.

A visitor samples cheese at Pied-De-Vent.

The black Canadienne is the oldest breed of cow in Canada, and a cross between Brettonne and Normande cows that were brought form France in the 17th century. This cow is rare and it was threatened with extinction until legislation was passed in 1999 to protect animal breeds that were of significance to Québec’s farming heritage. The Canadienne produces approximately half of the amount of milk that more common breeds produce, but the flavour is described as “exceptional.”

Production is done by hand using modern equipment for part of the process, by cheese artisans. Milk is piped to equipment from the barns, and is slowly heated to produce curds. Yeast, lactic acid and rennet are added. Once thickened it is drained, put in molds and soaked in salt to extract moisture from the cheese so it becomes firm. It is then set to ripen from the outside to the inside. Five kinds of cheeses are produced and different cheeses are ripened for different lengths of time.

We watched a video that taught us of the cheese making process and then we were treated to some samples of various cheeses made by their artisans.

The names were romantic and evocative of the stories and scenery of the island, such as Pied de Vent that means Sun through the Clouds, describing a common sight when you visit the Magdalen Islands.

I found many different foods of the island like to share the same mixing bowl. Beer from local microbrewery, Á l’abri de la Tempête, is used in one cheese.

I tromped through the special fields full of wildflowers, grass and wild herbs to find the Canadienne cows that had been sent out to pasture. They were too busy eating to lift their heads with a greeting.

Unique cows with a history, dining on rich vegetation from an island far out in the waters, give milk that has made…

A special business – this cheese making by the sea.

If You Go

For more information about Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent

149, Ch. De la Pointe-Basse   418 – 969-9292

www.fromagesduquebec.qc.ca

Pied-De-Vent farm and dairy as seen from the hills where the cows graze.

Pied-De-Vent farm and dairy as seen from the hills where the cows graze.