Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 03.25.13
Stanstead, Quebec


Syrup is simple and sweet -- and you can be too!

It's maple syrup season, or as we call it around here, March Madness. Across Quebec and other regions with more trees than sense, maple producers will spend the next several weeks working like beavers -- waddling, chewing wood, slapping their tails and posing for cheap gift-shop souvenirs. Their goal? To produce barrels of sweet maple syrup, an essential component of the traditional pancake-based diet that has made Canada what it is today: sticky.

Syrup is expensive, though, and maple producers justify it by saying their trade is extremely labour-intensive, far too complicated, in fact, for the common fellow. But that's just beaver talk. The truth is anyone can produce maple syrup. Just follow these easy steps:

First, plant a maple grove. Second, print this column, place it in a safety deposit box and come back in 25 years.

Hi, welcome back! Time flies when you're having fundamental rights stripped away by despotic robot governments, eh? Getting good mileage on that new hovercar? How about that Puppet President and his One Funk For All policy? Shor B cray-Z times…

Now, reconstitute that maple grove that was shrink-rayed in 2024 following the introduction of Prime-Minister-For-Life Harper's Bill for the Promotion of Energy Consumption and the Making Way for Pipelines All Over the Damn Place. Just look at those trees: so stately and mature with their thick trunks, rough exteriors and crooked limbs, just teeming with fluids -- they remind me of Madonna during her 2018 world tour.

Okay! Let's make some maple syrup!

Now that you're good and drunk -- oh wait, I skipped a step…

Down four to nine shots (depending on body weight) of the cheapest Canadian rye whiskey you can find while singing traditional Canadian syrup-drinking songs (i.e. "No Sugar Tonight," "Northwest Tappage," "To Syrup, With Love," etc.).

Now that you're good and drunk, go to sleep for several hours so that you wake with a blinding hangover. As everyone knows, maple trees sense human brain waves, and only by scrambling those brain waves through the ravages of mild alcohol poisoning will you be able to effectively sneak up on those sap-bearing mothertrunkers!

Wearing your special sap suit and transporting the top-grade medical gauze in your vintage leather portmanteau, slither on your belly into the maple grove. Note: only slithering will produce the required effect. Skulking, slinking or oonching may result in injury and the ridicule of the other sap hunters.

Immediately wrap the trees with the gauze. This must be done as quickly as possible and is the most exhausting part of the process, though not as exhausting as maple producers tend to let on, but then you know how maple producers are. "There's too much syrup on the market." "There's not enough syrup on the market." Never happy, those maple producers!

Once the trees are wrapped, use your machete to lop off the sweetest shoots and branches from the previous year's growth. To reach the higher branches, be sure to carry the odd small child in your portmanteau. (Note: consult your local laws regarding labour practices involving odd small children.)

Your arms laden with the maple harvest, trundle back to the sugar shack (or as it's called in French, "le shaque de sugah") and place the branches into the large vats teeming with a brine of purified water, yeast, glycerol, acetaminophen and sprigs of lavender. The lavender is to make the air smell pretty. Isn't that nice?

Soak the sweet maple branches in the brine for 48 hours. Any longer and the concoction will begin to ferment and turn to alcohol, what the Native people used to refer to as "April wine," and from which we get the name of that classic Canadian rock band, "Gordon Lightfoot."

After 48 hours of more singing and drinking (traditionally known as "sugaring off the wagon"), the brining action will have broken down the wood tissue into pulp. Despite another blistering hangover, you must now extract the sweet syrup from the pulp, but don't forget to first skim off the delectable maple curd, famous in beaver-laden gift shops worldwide.

Scoop the dripping heaps of maple pulp into the press. Traditionally, the pulp was pressed by hand but nowadays is pressed by 10:30 a.m.

Some producers opt to leave some pulp in their syrup, but as with orange juice, there are those who don't like pulp and those who are idiots.

And, voila! Rich, sweet maple syrup, ready to be bottled, drunk directly out of the spigot or foisted on an unsuspecting public.

There now, wasn't that simple and liver-enlarging? Don't you feel silly paying $9 a can for something you could so easily do yourself? I know my beaver does.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at