Sweet Huron - A Maple Tradition
Our pioneer ancestors took advantage of the maple stands on every farm in the county, and relied on the maple syrup and sugar they could reap from the trees to inject a little sweetness into their diet. The spring “sugaring off” season became a family tradition for generations of farm families. Eventually, some farms developed the maple syrup process into a cottage industry and others let the tradition fade away. Now, some families and farms tap just a few trees to get a taste each spring and others have made it a primary crop on their farm.
We checked in with a few producers in Huron who offer farmgate sales and/or tours and here are a few sweet stops for you.
Schilbe Family Maple Syrup has been producing maple syrup for nearly 50 years on its home farm just outside of Bayfield. It typically produces around 1,500 gallons from over 3,000 taps. Cathy Scott and her brother Eric Schilbe are the second generation to operate the sugar shanty with the big green door. They grew up helping their parents with the production and continue to have a passion for it.
The Schilbes’ farm has come a long way from the early days, as it is now utilizing a reverse osmosis system to concentrate sap, decreasing the boiling time which saves both labour and wood. There are two machines working at a rate of 17 gallons per minute.
The farm has wandering trails through the sugar bush that are open to the public to use. There are COVID-19 protocols in place to keep all visitors safe, including outdoor washroom facilities. There is a good parking lot that is large enough to accommodate buses. As with everything, it is best to check ahead before you head out. Schilbe Family Maple Syrup is on Facebook @SchilbeFamilyMapleSyrup or call 519-719-3818. 77340 Orchard Line, Bayfield.
Amalgamation Acres featuring Legacy Maple Syrup is the product of Annette and Brian MacKenzie joining forces in both marriage and farming in 2012. Since the home place had 60 acres of maple bush, one spring they decided to show the kids how maple syrup was produced, and ended up getting hooked on the production. That first year it was just a couple of trees, then 50 the next year, then 100 and then 250. Then, since Annette’s dad had a long association with steam engines, they tried an experiment to see how steam power could help the process and suddenly they had their brand and vision. The legacy power system became the driving force behind Legacy Maple Syrup. They have stuck with it, as they love the combination of old and new - using the steam power with modern reverse osmosis to create a truly innovative system
The tours and farmgate sales at the Farm Shoppe are continuing, if a little different this year due to the COVID-19 protocols. Tours are by appointment only, and the retail outlet is open on Friday and Saturday. Please call ahead, or order through the new website for porch/curbside pick-up. The Legacy Maple Syrup comes in unique streamlined, sleek bottles. Annette also sells ungraded, straight-off-the-farm brown eggs, meat by pre-order (humanely raised chicken, beef and pork) and local heritage and artisan crafts such as knitted animals and pillows. www.amalgamationacres.com 519-528-5995. 85399 St. Helens Line, Lucknow
Robinson’s Maple Products sees the Robinson family continuing on to its fifth generation of syrup makers. The tradition began with Bill’s grandfather, first as a hobby and later as a full-time syrup maker. In 1976, Bill and his wife Susanne began to build the Robinson’s brand with 3,800 taps. It is now one of the biggest producers in the region, with approximately 21,000 taps utilizing modern vacuum tubing that brings the sap to a storage tank where it is filtered using reverse osmosis technology before the water is boiled off using a steam-fired evaporator.
Robinson’s offers a wide variety of grades of maple syrup from Golden to Very Dark, with all products inspected. Its organic products are certified annually. In addition to syrup, Robinson’s has a popular line of maple products including maple sugar, maple butter and maple candies. Crowd favourites include the maple mustard, maple dips (which are excellent with veggies or crackers) and maple peanut brittle.
The website also has an entire section devoted to tried and true recipes that use maple syrup in more food combinations than you can imagine.
Bill and Susanne’s daughter Catherine and her husband Kevin have taken over the heavy lifting and are raising three boys to be just as passionate about their maple business as the generations before.
The farm has traditionally hosted tours during the spring sugar season, but COVID-19 has caused those to be cancelled for this year. The retail shop is open, but shoppers are encouraged to call ahead to confirm hours. Curbside and porch pick-up is available. 84548 St. Augustine Line, RR 2, Auburn. 519-529-7857. www.robinsonsmaple.com
Blyth Creek Maple Farm has made it its mission to bring the farm to people and provide a full experience for visitors. Val and Steve Bachert have designed a tour that walks you through the history of maple syrup production in Ontario, from an authentic Indigenous display using hot rocks to bring the sap to a boil to pioneer times introducing cast iron pots over open fires to the modern sugar shack with collecting tanks, vacuum pumps and an evaporator. Each station has activities for a hands-on learning experience.
Tours are a little different in the era of COVID-19, so check the website to book and get all the information on how to safely experience the farm.
Val brings a passion for food to their on-farm store. Sweet products are all homemade (except fudge) and available year-round. The Bacherts are continually developing unique recipes. Val says their maple hot sauce (a sriracha-based sauce) is a fan favourite and particularly good on chicken wings. Blyth Creek maple butter is unique, having no dairy in it. It is pure maple syrup boiled to a taffy stage and then stirred until crystalized into butter. You’ll have even more reasons to look forward to the holidays once you try the maple cranberry sauce. The Blyth Creek online store makes ordering easy for farm pick-up or convenient delivery. www.blythcreekmaplefarm.com 519-357-7558. 42232 Moncrieff Rd., Blyth.
Drudge’s Maple Syrup has been boiling down sap in Canada continuously since 1797. That’s nine generations of passion for maple syrup which provide centuries of experience to Drudge’s process. All products are available either at the retail store or online. Be sure to request the e-recipe book featuring Elizabeth Drudge’s recipes all featuring Drudge’s maple syrup. www.drudgesmaplesyrup.com. 43269 Amberley Road, Wroxeter. 519-291-2819
Cranston’s Maple Syrup is a local favourite. Ivan and Gail Cranston are continuing a family tradition that has lasted more than 80 years. In addition to Cranston’s top quality maple syrup and maple butter, the family offers gift baskets on request. You can find them on Facebook at Cranston Farms Maple Syrup. 85750 Lucknow Line, Lucknow. 519-529-7360.
Other Huron County producers are well-known for top quality and unique products that are available at markets and retailers throughout the county.