Sucrerie tradition returns to UMFK campus

1 year ago

FORT KENT, Maine — An Acadian-inspired tradition returned to the St. John Valley when University of Maine at Fort Kent hosted its annual Sucrerie celebration. 

The event allowed UMFK students, staff and members of the public a glimpse of the Acadian traditions that were instrumental in forming the St. John Valley community.

‘Sucrerie,’ translated from French to English, simply means “sweets.” Since 2016, Northwoods Nectar of Eagle Lake has sponsored a free traditional maple taffy on the snow at the event, which students and community members came out by the hundreds to enjoy.

The sucrerie occurs when makers of maple syrup start tapping sugar maple trees to harvest the delicious nectar during the beginning of the spring season. Acadians, who cherish their land and take pride in their independence, have long tapped maple trees to provide sustenance and joy to their families.

Northwoods Nectar proprietor Holly Hardwick is originally from Boothbay  but has lived in the St. John Valley for 22 years. She had not heard of the snow taffy before moving here, but has become a fan of the treat and the community that influenced it. 

“They are very proud of their Acadian culture and for good reason. They are a very united community of stories and traditions that I have grown to love,” Hardwick said. “It’s a celebration of spring that I want to share.”

FORT KENT, Maine — Northwoods Nectar prepares pulled maple taffy on the snow at an annual Sucrerie celebration at University of Maine at Fort Kent on March 9. (Jessica Potila | St. John Valley Times)

Guests also enjoyed other traditional Acadian foods such as ployes (buckwheat pancakes), which Janice Bouchard of Bouchard Family Farms cooked at the event with the assistance of St. John Valley resident Don Raymond.

Ployes have been a topic of conversation between Raymond and his wife of many decades, Anna Raymond, especially since they grew up in households that differed in the best way to prepare them. 

Ployes were a tradition in both families and Raymond enjoyed learning to make them, he said. The difference was his mother made them with boiling water while his wife’s mother made them with cold water.

“I became fascinated with making the perfect ployes, ones that looked appealing and ployes that had nice, even bubble holes,” he said. “I practiced using both mom’s and Ann’s mom’s methods. I had better success with my mom’s method of using boiling water.”

Sodexo, the campus food service, prepared honey baked ham, chicken stew, creton, mashed turnips and carrots, homemade bread, green beans, potato fricassee and desserts, including apple pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie and sugar pie.

Les Chanteurs Acadiens provided live musical entertainment.