We were about 24 hours too late. Between the morning that we spotted the little buckets on the maple trees and returning the next afternoon with a camera, the buckets had been removed.

The Laurentides — Laurentian mountains — an hour or so north of Montreal is part of a region that produces maple syrup. Collecting maple sap is a winter seasonal harvest, and it’s when you see buckets attached to thicker Maple tree trunks, just below a little tap. It’s pure water, or at least: that’s what it looks like at that thin, tree sap stage.

Collected in buckets, maple sap is boiled down in a ratio 40-50 to 1 (gallon). A lot of effort for a little bit of syrup… but so worth it!

A story of maple syrup and joining in for a Cabane á Sucre (Sugar Shack), one of the region’s seasonal culinary tradition, is coming later this year, just when the trees are getting ready for winter harvest again. 

This recipe uses generous spoonfuls of pure maple syrup. The duck loves it — and so will you!

Serves 4

  • 1 whole duck
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup rough diced shallots
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 dried chili (optional)
  • 1/2 bulb garlic (garlic bulb sliced in two across)
  • 1/2 oranges in quarters (skin included)
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 450F

Remove excess fat from the duck’s neck and belly opening. Clean the duck’s cavity (keep the neck and gizzards for the sauce!), sprinkle with a little coarse salt and fill with shallots, thyme, chili, garlic and oranges. Cut a surface cross-pattern on the duck’s breast side skin (not all the way through to the meat!) and rub in the remaining coarse salt. Place on a rack in a roasting pan.

Roast the duck for up to 45 minutes in the hot oven. Baste with a tablespoon maple syrup after 20 minutes.

Take out the duck, reduce the oven temperature to 300F. Brush the duck with 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Cover the duck in the roasting pan with foil (close tight) and put back in the oven. Roast at low temperature for about 4 hours. After 4 hours, take out and check the meat. If it comes off the bone without effort, the duck is done.

Let it cool down enough to handle. Remove the skin (or keep it for fat-lovers) and pull all the meat off the bones. Clean the carcass well and truly. Keep the meat under foil until ready to serve.

Break up the carcass and put in a sauce pan along with the cavity ingredients. Strain the liquid and scoop off most of the fat (tip: let it cool down in the fridge first. The fat will float to the surface and will be easier to remove). Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup plus the strained roasting juices. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Strain and reduce until the sauce is syrupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serving suggestion: Reheat the pulled duck if needed and mix some of the sauce and…

Serve on charred tacos with rucola and roasted peppers. 

Top on creamy mashed roasted butternut squash and garnish with spiced pecans.

Stuff in a crusty ciabatta with red cabbage slaw and shaved onions.

Or let me know how you ate this utterly delicious pulled duck!