Sanagan’s grade A maple syrup is produced in Guelph, Ontario by Shady Grove, the same family who raise most of our holiday turkeys. Shady Grove has 30,000 taps installed in 15 local woodlots, feeding not picturesque buckets but networks of vacuum-powered sap extraction systems. Their sugar shack (a.k.a. production facility) has the ability to process 4000 gallons of syrup per hour. They are serious about syrup and the result is top grade stuff.
In contrast to this high-tech scenario I’ve had the immense good fortune, having married into maple, of seeing the process at its most pioneer-like. My wife’s family, The Purvis’s obtained their original 400 acres of farmland and bush near Brockville, Ontario, in the form of an 1812 War land grant. At some point in the 1840’s they built a stone farmhouse. This is the house my wife grew up in, shaded by massive ancient sugar maples tapped for generations to produce the family’s annual batch of maple syrup.
#13 Syrup Street
If you’re looking for a holistic wellness program, I can’t recommend syrup making strongly enough. Endless lungfuls of bracing fresh air in a deeply natural setting, hiking through the bush carrying heavy buckets, mounting the pick-up truck, unloading the heavy antique milk cans and filling the boiler; it’s like CrossFit at Walden Pond.
Graham’s bucket list
After your workout you bask in the sap spa, the makeshift boiling tent where 40 units of sap is reduced into 1 unit of syrup and you steam yourself in the clouds of sweet mist coming out of the wood-fired evaporator. While you gently steam, it’s recommended you re-fortify with constant sampling.
So, I count myself lucky to be included in this sweet tradition. For those of you who don’t have a tapping family, you can still enjoy this elemental distillation of Canada’s natural flavour. Just include a bottle of maple syrup on your next Sanagan’s shopping list.
Ted and Laurel Purvis
Ted (right) started early