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Maple Producers That Are Making Peterborough & the Kawarthas One of the Sweetest Places in Canada

Hand holding a shot of maple syrup, Red Mill Maple products in the background

For many folks, the first signs of spring come in the sight and songs of robins and red-winged blackbirds. For others, it’s crocuses and daffodils appearing, as if by magic, often right alongside the snow. For a dedicated few, however, it happens a little while before this, often before groundhogs start calculating in weeks.

For maple syrup producers, it’s with the first stretch of above zero daytime weather, when the trees awaken, and the sap begins to flow. And on wafts of woodsmoke and maple-scented steam, it deliciously begins.

Maple syrup tasting bar at Red Mill Maple Syrup.

Drawing inspiration for at-home syrup production

I’m now five years into maple syrup-producing experience, with 25 taps, producing roughly 25 litres of liquid gold on my home-built evaporator. This year, I had exactly half a litre of last year’s syrup left when I began my first boil, meaning that, by harvesting our own wood from downed or tired trees, we have a year-round sustainable supply of our primary sweetener for cooking and table.

While I am definitely a small-scale subsistence boiler, I am incredibly proud to be producing in one of the best maple syrup regions in Canada.

Between boils of my own small-batch maple syrup, I always take time to visit some of my Kawarthas-area, syrup-producing friends to see what the professionals have been up to; and this year, I planned a two-day tour to take in some talk and some tastes.

Chef Tyler Scott of serves up dishes at a unique maple infused menu at Red Mill Maple Syrup.

Photos shows hands serving food from a pan to plates.

A taste of what Red Mill Maple Syrup has to offer

Fuelling up with a homemade maple latte (or three), I first headed out to Red Mill Maple Syrup, just south of Millbrook, home of Sebastien Poulin, a third-generation Quebecois syrup producer. The Red Mill sugar shack is the place to be if you want to learn about the craft, the process, and the product. While there, I took the opportunity to listen to Sebastien take onlookers through the different grades of maple syrup: golden, amber, dark and very dark. As well as through the different stages in maple syrup production such from raw sap to concentrated sap to partially finished maple syrup, and finally finished maple syrup.

I then sidled up to their brand-new maple syrup tasting bar, where barkeep Serina offered samples of some of their specials, including an absolutely beautiful bourbon barrel aged syrup that has to be tasted to be believed.

While at Red Mill, I was treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Camp Kitchen, where outdoor chef Tyler Scott treated us to a three-course backwoods lunch, great storytelling, and conversations about local food systems. Camp Kitchen offers unique Kawarthas forest and canoe tripping culinary experiences to both seasoned adventurers and greenhorn first timers.

Insider tip: Check Red Mill’s website to check their boiling days and hours.

Butter tarts

Award-winning (and crave-worthy) maple butter tarts

Then it was off to DooDoo’s bakery in Bailieboro to try out this year’s batch of maple tarts. Tart baker extraordinaire, Diane Rogers, has developed a reputation for deliciously flaky pastry and a crave-worthy range of butter tarts. In fact, you’ll be amazed at the countless number of award ribbons on display at DooDoo’s, showing that this reputation is well-earned.

Did you know? The syrup for DooDoo’s maple tarts comes from near-neighbour Johnston’s Farm.

Maple Weekend in Millbrook

For an afternoon visit, I headed up the road (or two) to Puddleduck Farm where owner Merridy Senior shared a bit of the tradition behind their land and shack. Boiling out of the old Kennedy Sugar Bush, and having gained valuable mentorship from that venerable syrup family, Puddleduck are keeping an over 100 year-old tradition alive. You can definitely taste it in their maple products.

Be sure to visit Puddleduck on Maple Weekend (the first weekend of April each year), for a tour of the sugar shack and samples. They’ll also be selling our maple syrup, maple butter and maple sugar candies.

Finally, on the way home, I stopped into the Millbrook Mercantile – a gourmand’s paradise carrying locally sourced organic chicken, bison, beef, pork, and duck, prepared meals, handmade pasta, meat pies, pizza, and more sourcing as much as possible from small farms and farmers from our community.

The first thing I laid eyes on? A healthy stock of both Red Mill and Puddleduck products, showing just how much this community supports one another.

Child hugging one of the world's oldest sugar maple trees in Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park just east of Peterborough Ontario Canada

Generations of Liquid Gold at Staples Maple Syrup

On day two, I visited the local maple syrup granddaddy of them all – and long-time mentors to this whole Peterborough & the Kawarthas’ region, Staples Maple Syrup on Hwy 7 in Cavan. Four-time winners at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Staples can trace their roots back to 1813 when the first Staples that emigrated to Canada wrote back home to Ireland about the sweet sap that flowed here. Bob Staples has been crafting this generation’s liquid gold since the late 1960s.

Insider tip: Be sure to pop by the Peterborough Farmers’ Market to chat with Bob and Jill Staples and to get your hands on their award-winning products.

Peterborough & the Kawarthas: Home to the Oldest Sugar Maple Trees in Canada

Wanting to burn off a bit of sugar, my next stop was to Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park (just east of Peterborough), home to the world’s oldest sugar maple tree. While I’m not entirely sure if I found the over 330-year-old giant, it was still incredible to walk through one of the oldest stands of maple trees still flourishing today.

Be sure to check out Peterborough & the Kawarthas during maple season: one of the sweetest places in Canada.