Spring is almost here! Almost time to go to the cabanes à sucre (sugar shack).
The best cabanes à sucre are large, rustic cabins in the woods – preferably a maple forest – with crowds of people everywhere.
Photo credit: Tragear
Because cabanes à sucre are all about crowds – everyone hanging out together, collectively marveling that the winter is almost over.
Waiting in line to in, you feel the warm spring sun on your face, the mud beneath your feet and everywhere the sound of dripping water: it’s snow and ice melting off everything in sight.
The lineup is boring but it helps whet your appetite for the gigantic meal that awaits inside. Once inside, you sit at long collective tables, cozily jammed together next to perfect strangers, and eat one of the heartiest meals of the year.
It’s loud, it’s fun, the kids run wild, and there’s often fiddle music and someone playing spoons. It is – thank goodness – finally spring.
And best of all, in an ever-changing world, the food at the cabane is always exactly the same, year after year. I’ll be featuring many of the recipes here in the weeks to come, starting with Slow Cooker Maple Baked Beans.
Slow Cooker Maple Baked Beans
3 1/2 cups (460 g) dried white or Navy beans, soaked overnight
1 onion, peeled and chopped (1 cup)
½ cup maple syrup
1/2 lb salt pork, rind removed and diced (or 1/2 cup of chopped dates for veggie version)
4 cups water * (see note below)
¼ cup tomato paste (half of a small can)
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak beans in water overnight.
Drain the beans the next day, put them in a large a pot, cover them with water, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.
*Drain beans, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Put the drained beans into the slow cooker with chopped onion, maple syrup, salt pork (or dates), tomato paste, molasses, apple cider vinegar, mustard and paprika. Pour in the reserved the reserved cooking water, plus two additional cups of water (total 4 cups).
Cover slow cooker and cook 6-7 hours on low, or 4-5 on high, depending on the power of your slow cooker. Check the beans a few times during cooking, and add more water if needed.
Serve beans with a loaf of homemade Crusty No Knead Bread, or pick up some freshly-baked bread from one of Quebec’s fantastic artisanal bakeries.
NOTE: When cooking with my slow cooker, I always put it on the concrete floor in the basement. My slow cooker heats up quite a bit underneath, and I don’t like leaving it on the kitchen counter in case the counter catches fire. I’m probably overcautious, but I don’t worry now if I go out and the slow cooker is on.