Sugar Shack Festival celebrated maple syrup season in Ontario

Mar 14, 2023 | Culture, Life

Caleb Gul carefully poured hot maple syrup onto a bed of snow and then he rolled it onto a popsicle stick, creating a Canadian delicacy.

He passed the frozen treat on to a lover of the frozen snow candy, who was part of two long lines of customers waiting for a Maple Taffy.

Gul and his partner Sumit Raghub, who own the Broken Ice which makes maple syrup treats, were part of the Sugar Shack Festival that returned to Toronto Waterfront supporting the maple syrup local companies. It’s the first festival following the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Redpath Sugar presented the annual event last weekend to celebrate the beginning of maple season in Ontario. The free family-friendly event introduced different shows, activities, live music, and food made with maple syrup.

Victoria Mahoney, a co-producer of the festival, told Humber News that Sugar Shack has been in Canada since 2016, however, it had to be put on pause for four years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’re so excited again to return and just bring people out and have fun. So hopefully people enjoyed the live music and entertainment,” Mahoney said.

“We really wanted to show people the parts of the waterfront in the winter and involve the waterfront community in the winter months,” she said.

Also, Mahoney said that the event is supported by two local companies making the maple syrup, Zibaakdakaan Maple and Pefferlaw .

The first one is owned by the Indigenous community at Cape Crocker Park.

“We’re from the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation located on the Bruce Peninsula, which is about three and a half drive from Toronto,” said Lenore Keeshig , a worker and storyteller for Cape Croker Park.

Keeshig said the event helps to promote their product which is not that easy to make.

“It’s a very long process because it starts way before we even tap the trees,” she said. “Our people need to go through the forest to make sure the fallen trees are cleaned up and branches are coming down.”

Keeshig said weather plays a big part in making maple syrup and is needed to be under close watch to determine the right time for tapping the trees.

“When we get those really cold nights with nice warm daytime temperatures, then, that is the time to tap the trees. After tapping and waiting for some time, we start cooking,” she said.

“Sometimes people are working till after midnight to get the maple syrup done,” Keeshig said. “And that’s only part of it.”

The owners of Broken Ice, Gul and Raghub, manned a wood trough filled with snow, which is needed to create their snow candy speciality, the Maple Taffy. They were among about eight maple syrup vendors at the festival.

“We sold about 220 maple taffies today,” Gul told Humber News. “It has been a really good and amazing experience. We’re already looking to take a part in this event for the next year.”

Also, Gul shared two main ingredients for making their maple syrup.

“It’s 90 per cent of pure maple syrup and 10 per cent of effort and sweat.”

Raghub, another owner of the company, moved from India to Canada a few years ago. When he thinks about the most Canadian thing to try, maple syrup is the first one that comes to his mind.

“What’s the most Canadian thing? Maple syrup is very and truly Canadian. You still can find maple syrup in different parts of the world but the way Canada does it, nobody else does it,” he said.

“So, if you really try to understand what Canada is about, maple taffies are one of the best ways to do it,” Raghub said.

Many people attended the event enjoying their love for maple syrup despite the cold weather.

“We tried to promote it as a very Canadian event,” Mahoney said.