Category Archives: Of The Essence

Eatin’s Canada – April


  1. The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character:
  2. An extract or concentrate obtained from a plant or other matter and used for flavouring or scent. (Oxford)

There may in some quarters be a debate about what is the most Canadian food, but here at Eatin’s Canada it is recognized that Maple Syrup is the essence of Canadian spring..and the most Canadian of foods.

This year, given the long and harsh winter, April is the month of the essence, when the warming of the weather allows the sap to run freely, filling buckets with pure liquid, almost like water, but ever so slightly sweet.  JP Campbell returns with part two of the sugarbush story.

Maple Syrup, The Essence of Spring, our feature Food for Thought article takes us from tapping, though the cooking process, to the final product. Later in the month, we’ll be featuring an article on another wonderful essence…Honey, but more on that when it arrives. When time permits, there will also be a follow-up and progress report on the seedlings.

Meanwhile, we have reviews and recipes for your reading and cooking pleasure:

Reviews: GaddAboutEating’s review of West Coast Seeds. For those that have not yet begun their gardens, as I did last month, there is still time to get seeds and start them indoors. Through the month, we’ll also be reviewing some other products and some events, watch for updates.

Recipes: In honour of the season, Gurpreet Chana has created a Canadian version of Gulab Jamun, an Indian classic dessert, using a maple based syrup, rather than a rosewater scented one. Lindiwe Sithole has provided a new Zimbabwean comfort food, Oxtail Stew, and Glen Synoground has returned with a delicious and tempting Crispy Szechuan Chicken recipe.

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Book review: “Practically Raw Desserts” by Chef Amber Shea Crawley

Practically RawReview by Alison Cole, recipe © 2012 by Amber Shea Crawley with permission from Vegan Heritage Press, LLC.

For those who love experimenting with wholesome, healthy ingredients to create plant-based versions of a large variety of traditional desserts, this is the book for you. On the heels of her first cookbook “Practically Raw” (2012), Chef Amber Shea Crawley has published its successor, “Practically Raw Desserts”, which came out last year. Amber is both a popular blogger and highly trained raw chef who presents her expert knowledge about food and raw food preparation techniques in this beautiful volume. Its colourful photographs and palatable layout serve as enough alone to entice and satisfy the reader into at least visually devouring the recipes within.

What does the term “practically raw” mean, you might ask? This is where the theme of flexibility leads as a role in the book, offering its readers a variety of substitutions and variations for every recipe. Not only are you given multiple options for ingredient substitutions, but many of the recipes also offer the choice of making the dessert “raw” or “cooked”. For those who don’t own a dehydrator or care too much about the nutritional advantages that raw food offers over a cooked dessert, this book becomes much more accessible for the average reader who wants to dabble in raw cuisine but may not be ready to take the full plunge in. Variations for lower fat, nut-free and lower-sugar versions of the recipes are also presented, truly making this a compilation that everyone can use and enjoy!

Many of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted are raw, and the ones in this book easily reinforce that claim. In utilizing key ingredients such as nuts, nut flours, maple syrup and coconut oil, to name some, no richness is absent from the cookies, cakes, puddings, ice creams, pies and more that grace the pages of Chef Amber’s tantalizing collection.

Care for a Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart with Macaroon Crust? Some of the most chewy and delicious Chocolate Chunk Cookies you’ve ever tried? A cashew-based New York Cheesecake that is more delectable than any of its dairy-based counterparts you have ever tasted? It’s all here in the book, including the creamiest ice creams I have ever made, plus the Famous Five-Minute Blondies II that stunned me with their toothsome taste, put together with just handful of simple ingredients. You’ll find it difficult to stop popping these little treasures into your mouth one after another.

This book serves as a delight to read and an innovative adventure to undertake. Under the guidance of Amber’s encouraging and inspiring voice throughout, you’ll find yourself exploring the recipes one by one to be pleasurably impressed by these raw (or practically raw) wholesome treats.


Frying Gulab Jamun
Frying Gulab Jamun

Recipes: In honour of the season, Gurpreet Chana has created aCanadian version of Gulab Jamun, an Indian classic dessert, using a maple based syrup, rather than a rosewater scented one.





Lindiwe Sithole has provided a new Zimbabwean comfort food, Oxtail Stew.





017Glen Synoground has returned with a delicious and tempting Crispy Szechuan Chicken recipe.


Maple Syrup, The Essence of Spring

Article and photography by JP Campbell

In West Quebec it’s not unusual to mark the true beginning of Spring as the day the sap begins to run. This year it was March 31st. Immediately the core crew at the sugarbush were called to action.

The path to the Sugarshack
The path to the Sugarshack

First the trees must be tapped. In preparation snowmobile trails are made through the ‘main routes’ across the bush. The tappers branch off from these to prepare the trees. The Maples selected are at least 8” in diameter. In our location, a crew of two crosses the hills on snowshoes. The first member has a drill with a 7/16ths bit and drills at least one hole 2 1/2” deep on the sunny side of the tree. The second follows behind. He or she will sterilize each tap then hammer it in the and attach the pail and cover. The cover gives the pail protection from fragile winter bark and, god

Dominion & Grimm for generations the most common name in the bush.
Dominion & Grimm for generations the most common name in the bush.

forbid, rain. With the easiest areas, tapped collection can begin and the tappers head to more distant or difficult terrain. Our crew chief Don, believes we’ve tapped 450 trees this season and is already talking about more next year!

The crew has so far avoided modern commercial collection. There are no plastic tubes here. Collecting by hand is great exercise, puts one in touch with the silence of the forest and adds additional pride in the final product. That being said this year’s snow conditions give one pause. The snow is like slush four feet deep. Hills are crossed and the sap is emptied into pails.  Even with snowshoes you are

Donald examines the filters at the collection tank
Donald examines the filters at the collection tank

going to go in up to a hip. I say hip because, without notice, it’s always one leg that goes down and even as you fall the only thought is not to lose a drop of the precious sap. The merits of commercial methods is obvious but I’ve joined a stubborn bunch.

In remote areas, the buckets are emptied into barrels for collection by snowmobile and trailer. Close to the sugarshack you’re on your own and must carry the buckets back. At the shack the sap is poured  through a double filter into a large barrel. From there it will be pumped up behind the shack into a covered holding tank. At this point gravity feeds it inside to the evaporator.

TheEvaporatorIf you haven’t picked up on it yet, this operation is pretty ‘old school’. The evaporator is, of course, wood fired and that demands care. Cut wood must be available. The furnace must be fed and fed properly. The boiling sap must be monitored. A good boil is required but, imagine your kitchen stove, you do not want dozens of gallons of sticky fluid boiling over. The experienced eye of the crew chief is never far away, which is a good thing. The crew chief will also grade the final product. Based on colour and then viscosity this is something that I have yet to take part in. The season is still young.

TheBoilThe final part of the process is the bottling. This will be familiar to anyone who’s canned or made wine. The keys here are proper sterilization and a good tight seal.

I am sure I have left out so much that I already take for granted. I am exhausted and will return to the bush, with luck, everyday until the end of the season. Forgive me.

At the same time I encourage everyone with access to maples to make their own syrup if only in your own kitchen. It can be a fun family project and I can also say one of the very best syrups I tasted last year was homemade.

Thanks to the crew: Donald, Ian, Roseanne and the dozens of others who help out.

The evaporator firebox.
The evaporator firebox.

Review – West Coast Seeds

Review by GaddAboutEating. Photo from West Coast Seeds

West Coast Seeds

4930A Elliott Street
Ladner, BC, British Columbia
Canada, V4K 2Y1

Don’t worry – it’s not just for West Coast People.   This is the place to go for organic seeds and gardening supplies and they are available online or in person.  I started using West Coast Seeds years ago.   At that point they weren’t in their fancy store.   It was a shop in a barn on a farm property.   The  selection was very good  and the service has always been consistently great:  pleasant, helpful, and well-informed staff.

West Coast Seeds believes in the principles of organic gardening and as such they only sell untreated seeds.  They have wonderful varieties of heritage, heirloom and organic seeds for your vegetables and flower gardens.

The staff is wonderfully knowledgeable and incredibly helpful.  It’s an interesting experience listening to their conversations with other customers and you scan the racks of seeds – what you overhear are some interesting tidbits about other’s gardening practices and concerns as well as getting the sense that all the staff are genuinely interested in helping and are very passionate about what they do.


Most years I start my seeds super early and fill up my tiny kitchen table and shelves with trays and lights.   This year I’ve managed to show some restraint – only because of my incredibly busy school schedule – and am about 2 months behind.   Which probably puts me right in line with when normal people would start.

I haven’t yet taken my Spring trip out to their store but good news is:  I have a selection of seeds that I’ve been collecting for years; I’m seeing West Coast Seed displays in my local garden centres; and – something you internet people will love – they have an amazing catalogue and webstore.

The website is an amazing resource itself.
The site includes planting guides for all areas of Canada  [LINK]  as well as many other informative guides, instructive articles and blogs, and glossaries.

Happy Spring!!!

West Coast Seeds
West Coast Seeds

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