Posted 03.30.17 / Local Produce, People, Places

Tap into the season – and our northern backyard

Maple syrup.

Just the name evokes so many childhood memories. Whether you remember eating pancakes while watching Saturday morning cartoons or waiting eagerly with your popsicle stick as warm syrup is drizzled on top of fresh snow, there’s nothing more Canadiana than maple syrup.

Sap is running at more than 2,500 maple sugar farms across Ontario, including a few in the North. The first weekend in April is Ontario’s Maple Weekend when producers open their doors to the public and demonstrate the process.

This week Verdicchio’s Mark Gregorini accompanied his son Alessandro and Grade 3 students from MacLeod Public School on a visit to the Despatie Sugar Bush in Hanmer.

The children were learning about maple syrup production as part of a unit focused on Canadian identity and heritage while Mark was researching and taking notes to assist in the creation of our upcoming tasting menu featuring the seasonal local ingredient.

The Maple Syrup Three Course Menu (see below) blends local heritage flavours with classic and progressive Italian dishes and will be available from Monday April 3 to Saturday April 8 at Verdicchio Ristorante

Spoiler alert: this menu will make you re-think the way you use maple syrup in your kitchen!

Verdicchio prides itself in being one of the first restaurants in Sudbury to source ingredients locally.Part of the process means getting to know the farmers and producers in our backyard.

We get to meet people like Richard Despatie, who was just 10 years old when he started helping his father tap trees. He is the third generation to carry on the tradition despite halting his work for three years because of health problems. Production has resumed at the sugar bush, which was started by his grandfather Theodore shortly after settling in the area from Quebec before the First World War. He tapped his first trees in 1914 and relied on horses to haul the sap out of the bush and to an open fire to be boiled. The First Nation people taught Theodore how to tap the sugar maple trees for syrup. Today there are about 3,500 maples on the Despatie property and some are more than 200 years old.

With warm temperatures, maple syrup producers in the northeast got an early start to the 2017 season, with some in production as early as February.

We learned the best time to visit a farm is when daytime temperatures rise above freezing. Rising temperatures creates pressure in the tree trunk and the sap begins to flow.

Read on for further facts about maple syrup.

  

Did you know?

• Canada produces 80 per cent of the world’s maple syrup.

• In 2016 Sucrerie Seguin Sugarbush in Lavigne received the top prize for their light maple syrup at the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair in Toronto.

• It takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of maple syrup

• Trees must be at least 40 years old to tap.

• 13 species of maple trees native to Canada produce maple syrup

• The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has three categories of maple syrup based on color and taste: Category 1 (extra light, light and medium grades); Category 2 (amber grade) and Category 3 (dark grade) which often contains traces of caramel, plant bud or sap flavours.

• ¼ cup of maple syrup contains 100 % daily value of manganese, which benefits healthy bone structure, bone metabolism and creates essential enzymes for building bones, helps in formation of connective tissue, absorption of calcium and proper function of thyroid gland and sex hormones, regulation of blood sugar level and metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

• Maple syrup also includes riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Maple Syrup Tasting Menu

APPETIZER

Insalatina

Sweet and bitter greens | endive | roasted radish | grapes | raspberry cured asiago shaving | maple pecan reduction

 Carpaccio

Air cured Valtellina beef bresaola | maple infused broccolini | parmigiano crisp

 MAIN

In house made maple tagliatelle | alto adige speck | black lentils | sauteed swisschard | white wine | toasted almond and lime zest garnish

 Niagara peach stuffed Ontario bone in pork chop | arugula and cherry tomato sautee | polenta and gorgonzola cheese gratin | maple and paprika gastrique

DESSERT

House made maple syrup brownie | frangelico and maple butter reduction | local blueberry compote | maple whip cream

 Traditional Italian crostata with blueberry maple jam | fior di latte gelato | mint and orange zest garnish