The Gleaner
Agriculture

L’Hermine adapts, gears up for sugar shack season

Céline Ouimet, who partners with her sister Chantal and brother-in-law François Benny in the well-known L’Hermine sugar shack on St. Charles Road in Havelock, credits their business’s survival in this very difficult time to “our active website, a clientele built up over many years, and our boutique.” (Like other sugar shacks, she says, they are still waiting for adequate government aid.)

“Of course,” she adds, “we’ve had to do things very differently” over the last year. Before the pandemic, they ran a dining room seating 50, serving classic sugaring-off dinners to the community, tourists and local groups like schools. They started a bistro in 2018, open from Thursdays to Sundays during part of the summers. They also catered weddings and other celebrations. Now only the boutique is open; but the kitchen is still humming.

In March and April, people will be able to order pre-made sugar shack meals with omelets, beans, bacon and, of course, pork rinds. “They’ll be cold, but easily heated up,” says Céline’s sister Chantal, and can be picked up or delivered. L’Hermine will be busy as of March 1 also producing a full takeout/delivery menu that must be ordered from their website, to be picked up or delivered on Saturdays. Delivery covers nearly everywhere in this MRC. “If you happen to live out of our delivery area,” Chantal says, “we can arrange to meet you. Say, if you live in Dundee, we go as far as Huntingdon.”

On offer now, every Saturday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., is a varied menu, ranging from maple potato and other soups, to many kinds of pizzas and main dishes like General Tao chicken, seafood linguine, Cajun shrimp and maple basted ribs, and right down to maple sugar pie and maple nut squares. The boutique, open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 to 5, offers more than 25 products as well as gift basket arrangements.

 

At LHermine from left Céline Ouimet François Benny and Chantal Ouimet Their active website has helped the cabane à sucre weather the pandemic PHOTOS The Gleaner
The evaporation process sends the sweet smell of maple into the air

 

Céline Ouimet has had a demanding career for the past 31 years as the director general and secretary-treasurer of the town of Saint-Chrysostôme. When asked why she’s gotten involved with another demanding career, that of restaurateur, she laughs and says, “My sister Chantal, she adores cooking! It’s manageable, with three of us here.” She will be retiring from the town position in June, able to devote even more energy to the cabane à sucre.

The sisters’ parents, Hermine and Gaétan Ouimet, started the sugar shack in 1983 and built up a reputation for Hermine’s good cooking. Today’s owners took over in 2003, already nearly 20 years ago, “and we’ve tried to keep up our mother’s quality, along with adding many recipes from Chantal.” Hermine herself is 83 and lives in a multi-generational home with Chantal and François. “She keeps herself very busy still,” says Céline.

She thinks one reason they’re still able to do what they love is “all the work we’ve done on our website, trying to make it better and better. These days, it’s the only way we can show off all our products and services.” Just about all the maple products you can think of are produced from their own maple bush: syrup, sugar, maple cream, maple-kissed spices, and so on. They also grow haskaps, or honeyberries, a hardy Japanese fruit that looks like an elongated blueberry, to make products with honeyberry syrup.

Besides delivery, L’Hermine provides a pleasant destination for a well-made lunch or dinner you can take home. In a pretty woods well off the road, it’s not far from either Ormstown or Hemmingford. More information can be found on their website or Facebook page.

 

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