Every spring the snow melts and as sap starts to flow from the thawing Canadian maple trees, Sugar Shacks, or Cabane à sucre as the French-Canadians call it, start bustling with activity. Families visit the maple sugar bush to taste this years’ maple syrup crop and eat a lavish meal doused in that same maple syrup. Each Sugar Shack boasts their own version of pea soup, ham, homemade bread, country-style sausages, fried pork rinds, baked beans, omelette souffle and pancakes. Unfortunately most of these dishes are made with major allergens such as eggs, butter and milk, and meals are served family style, which creates an additional challenge for people living with food allergies.
Sugar shacking has been a tradition for generations in many families, and it would be a shame to allow food allergies to break a tradition. This year, consider bringing the sugar shack to your home and host a family brunch with an allergen-free menu. After eating, you can experience the sugar bush together for a sleigh ride, see the thawing trees and have some maple syrup taffy for dessert.
Here are some ideas for hosting an allergen-free Sugar Shack brunch. The menu can be intimidating, but with planning and preparation the spirit of the sugar shack will come alive in your home.
- French Canadian Pea soup can be made well in advance and frozen. Defrost enough to serve about 1 cup per person and keep it piping hot in a large pot on the back burner of your stove.
- Maple beans can be made overnight and served straight out of the slow cooker.
- Get creative with your omelette and impress your guests with delicious egg alternatives. Mini quiches can be made in advance and kept warm in the oven.
- Pancakes are an essential part of the Sugar Shack experience. Make at least 3 pancakes per person and serve at the end of the meal. Cooking them on a large griddle so that 10 or more pancakes can be made at a time would be ideal, but if you don’t have one, consider making the pancakes before guests arrive and keep them warm in the oven (Just make sure you cover them so they don’t dry out)
- Skip the deep fried pork rind and serve sulphite-free thick cut bacon instead. Cook the bacon strips on a parchment paper lined baking sheet instead of frying in a pan (400F for approximately 20 minutes). This way you can spend your time entertaining guests.
- Pre-cook your allergen-free sausages by boiling them the night before. Pan fry in oil for 5 minutes just before serving, or brown them in the oven by broiling on high for 2-3 minutes.
- Don’t forget the maple syrup! Get lots and serve it at room temperature or a little warm. Your guests will love it!