Inside Quebec’s Great, Multi-Million-Dollar Maple-Syrup Heist
December 7, 2016 10:15 AM   Subscribe

In 2012 (previously), $18.7 million of maple syrup was stolen from a storage facility in St-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec (Modern Farmer's illustrated account here). Much of the stolen syrup was eventually traced and recovered (previously). In November of this year, Richard Vallières and two others were found guilty of the crime. This was not the only maple syrup heist of its kind. Quebec produces 72 per cent of the world's supply, with quotas, prices, and quality standards set by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. Rich Cohen, writing in Vanity Fair, asks: "Have there been side effects to all this success? Has the federation, with its quotas and its methods of control (quotas must be enforced), reaped its own sticky harvest?"
posted by mandolin conspiracy (52 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's definitely a black market in maple syrup.
honey-flavored elixir.
No.
posted by jeather at 10:25 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


honey-flavored elixir.

This was regrettably ham-fisted writing on his part.

I mean, you can glaze a ham with either, but they taste different from one another.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2016


I remember this thread from the original theft. Thanks for the update.
posted by infini at 10:31 AM on December 7, 2016


It’s an answer that would bring joy in Quebec—authenticity is what FPAQ is selling. Canadian maple is real, while all those high-fructose Jemimas are as phony as the bottle that is the body of Mrs. Butterworth.

But... have you ever tasted them? "Pancake syrup" is gross. The texture is like tar. Real maple syrup tends to be thinner but it just tastes so much better. It's not just a marketing scam.

Also maple butter is amazing. The same way crack cocaine is amazing.
posted by GuyZero at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


A few years ago returning from Montreal into *Vermont* at the "any thing to declare" I admitted to a couple tins of syrup, boy did I get a dirty eye...
posted by sammyo at 10:44 AM on December 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sweet, sweet justice.
posted by zippy at 10:46 AM on December 7, 2016


... alleged to have purchased “hot” syrup from one of the kingpins...

Why is this not a major motion picture? Noir or comedy, take your pick, heck both.
posted by sammyo at 10:50 AM on December 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


This guy went to Quebec but he clearly doesn't understand the place and is trying way too hard to be entertaining. Supply control isn't unique at all; we still have it all over Canada for dairy and had it for wheat until a few years ago. The FPAQ isn't that different from a mandatory harvest insurance scheme.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:52 AM on December 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


The FPAQ isn't that different from a mandatory harvest insurance scheme.

On googling Canada apparently even has egg production quotas. Shocking that socialism goes beyond medical care...
posted by GuyZero at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2016


The Reserve is in Laurierville, a town in the heart of Quebec. Steeples, snowy roads, hills, old men in berets eating croissants at McDonald’s. It’s reached via spotless highways where no one tailgates or cuts you off or honks in anger.

It's details like this that make me wonder if the author even visited Quebec.
posted by cardboard at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2016 [21 favorites]


honey-flavored elixir

the bootleg stuff i got was honey flavored polyjuice and i am not coming out of the bathroom until everyone calms the fuck down and stops laughing
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


he clearly doesn't understand the place

Yes, and more importantly, wtf is up with the messed up armchair geology. The Monteregians are not volcanoes: they're bits of harder rock that didn't erode as much as the stuff surrounding it. The first google result I got says as much.

Frankly, I'm disappointed. I expected more thorough geological fact checking from Vanity Fair.
posted by Mons Veneris at 10:59 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


... alleged to have purchased “hot” syrup from one of the kingpins...

Why is this not a major motion picture? Noir or comedy, take your pick, heck both.


This story was made for the Coen brothers!
posted by TedW at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Steeples

Sure

snowy roads

Fairly often

hills

One of Quebec's defining geographical features really

old men in berets

That's France I think?

eating croissants at McDonald’s

wat

no

It’s reached via spotless highways

QUEBEC? Are we talking about the Quebec in Canada here? Is there more than one Quebec?

where no one tailgates or cuts you off or honks in anger.

Ok, you pushed the bullshit too far. Either the author has not been to Quebec or somehow drives like a Quebeker at 120 kph on 80 kph roads, in snow, in the dark.
posted by GuyZero at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2016 [18 favorites]


It's details like this that make me wonder if the author even visited Quebec.

You're not kidding.

Makes me wonder if he's ever tried to drive Highway 20 through Montreal at rush hour during peak construction season with Ontario plates?

Anecdata here, but you will get:

a.) Cut off, and

b.) The finger.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is how you make Canadians grouchy, apparently. Write incorrectly about Quebec and maple syrup.
posted by quaking fajita at 11:10 AM on December 7, 2016 [19 favorites]


Also, technically, those aren't barrels (42 US gal) but drums (55 US gal). /metrology-nerdisms
posted by bonehead at 11:17 AM on December 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


The author has a prior for deliberately bullshitting for a laugh, so I guess take everything in the story with a grain of salt.
posted by cardboard at 11:23 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


oh god, i knew his terrible prose felt familiar. this explains a lot.
posted by misskaz at 11:27 AM on December 7, 2016


This is how you make Canadians grouchy, apparently. Write incorrectly about Quebec and maple syrup.

Try asking about the national bird.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:30 AM on December 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Pancake syrup" is gross. The texture is like tar. Real maple syrup tends to be thinner but it just tastes so much better. It's not just a marketing scam.

And, yet, I must keep a bottle of Mrs.Buttersworth in the pantry because the missus hates real maple syrup. I think it actually is the thinness that she hates. That and it's not nearly as sweet as that grandmother-shaped bottle of flavored corn syrup. More for me, I guess.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:37 AM on December 7, 2016


Has Canada switched to the everything-is-grade-A labeling that the US uses now? We buy the darkest grade by the gallon, and I can never remember what it's called. I think it made mrsozzy uncomfortable when I kept referring to it as "Grade A Dark & Lovely" last week.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:49 AM on December 7, 2016


for my boyfriend's birthday I got him a bottle of maple syrup that had been aged in whiskey barrels. it is divine
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Either the author has not been to Quebec or somehow drives like a Quebeker at 120 kph on 80 kph roads, in snow, in the dark.

On the highway I often find myself taking, it's only 105 kph or so you that need to go for everything to be good, where the speed limit is 90 as usual. After coming across the border from Ontario it is a massive feeling of relief to suddenly be back in the land where traffic behaves normally and correctly. Obviously it is not much like that in Montreal, but there are plenty of highways in Quebec where it is very easy going and I am prepared to believe that at least one approach to Laurierville is among them.
posted by sfenders at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


At least for the syrup sold in Quebec, they use names rather than letters: extra light, light (eq. to A), medium (eq. to B), amber (C), dark (D).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2016


You know who else reaped their own sticky harvest?
posted by Naberius at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2016


Around the time of the original heist thread, I bought a bag of maple sugar for a recipe I can't remember and ended up not making. Now I still have a bag of maple sugar and no idea what to do with it, but it taunts me every time I open the cupboard.
posted by Mchelly at 12:24 PM on December 7, 2016


I must keep a bottle of Mrs.Buttersworth in the pantry because the missus hates real maple syrup.

How can you enjoy your pancakes with the smell of brimstone wafting across the breakfast table at you?
posted by Quindar Beep at 12:28 PM on December 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Now I still have a bag of maple sugar and no idea what to do with it, but it taunts me every time I open the cupboard.

It works in just about anything, especially coffee or tea.
posted by GuyZero at 12:30 PM on December 7, 2016


The price of maple syrup doubled a few years back and I'd heard it was because of an ice storm that killed a lot of sugar maple trees in the Eastern Townships. Now it seems that it was actually because of a cartel? I must alert everyone in OPEC*.

* The Organization of Pancake-Eating Canadians. We're single-issue voters.
posted by Quindar Beep at 12:32 PM on December 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


...New York State, which, Canadians tell you with a shudder, has three times more maple trees than all of Quebec’s maple farms combined. The French province produces 72 percent of the world supply, but if the Americans ever make the push to self-sufficiency, French Canada is cooked.

To a point. If you pick up a bottle or jug from a certain sugarbush, it becomes clear that like wine or scotch, maple syrup has a terroir aspect. I wouldn't know how to describe the differences in taste between syrup from one sugarbush as opposed to another, but there's definitely something there. The jug I have from the Niagara Peninsula tastes totally different from the jar I have from Parry Sound. Even in the generalized blends of syrup, there's still a difference. And this Ontarian is perfectly happy to admit that Quebec cabane a sucre maple syrup is the best. And there will always be a market for the best.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:35 PM on December 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure if Quebec syrup is le mieux but far too many small producers don't boil their syrup down enough, leaving it on the thin side. At least the Quebec cartel stuff is standardized.
posted by GuyZero at 12:39 PM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


It’s reached via spotless highways where no one tailgates or cuts you off or honks in anger.

The only possible way I can reconcile this with the reality I know is that he visited Quebec during December or January, when apparently all the rotten drivers with Quebec plates are down here in Florida.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:45 PM on December 7, 2016


I bought some maple flavored soda yesterday. Haven't drank it yet.
posted by jonmc at 12:56 PM on December 7, 2016


It works in just about anything, especially coffee or tea.

Or, if your tastes run that way, akvavit.
posted by sfenders at 1:15 PM on December 7, 2016


I still want that heist turned into a movie by either the Cohen brothers or Wes Anderson, starring Matt Damon and George Clooney wearing lots of flannel.
posted by Grandysaur at 1:16 PM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Makes me wonder if he's ever tried to drive Highway 20 through Montreal at rush hour during peak construction season with Ontario plates?

Anecdata here, but you will get:

a.) Cut off, and

b.) The finger.


Because of this, it is the patriotic duty of all Ontarians to treat any Quebec plated vehicle you encounter on any highway in Ontario in exactly the same way as outlined above. Not to be a dick, but rather to make them feel welcome. Presumably this is the way they also treat each other, because this behaviour is so universally observed by outsiders that statistically it MUST be happening ALL THE TIME even when there are no non-Quebecois around to observe it.
posted by some loser at 1:22 PM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Now that I have a US drivers license I need to head back to the QC and make a shit-ton of right turns on red. TICKET ME ALL YOU WANT, LES GENDARMES!
posted by GuyZero at 1:29 PM on December 7, 2016


Erm, you do realize Quebec legalized right turns on red in 2003, right? (Except on the Island of Montreal)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:43 PM on December 7, 2016


I did not know that. And as an Anglo I'm not sure what you mean by "except Montreal" - does Quebec exist outside Montreal?
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on December 7, 2016


And in Montreal it's fine because everyone breaks all the traffic rules anyhow, so you're safe there too.
posted by jeather at 1:49 PM on December 7, 2016


Right turn on red, straight on red, left turn on red.
posted by jeather at 1:50 PM on December 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


GuyZero: "Now that I have a US drivers license I need to head back to the QC and make a shit-ton of right turns on red. TICKET ME ALL YOU WANT, LES GENDARMES!"

You realize that a warrant can be issued if you don't pay those fines right? So you'd want to leave Canada again after your orgy of right turns and then never come back.
posted by Mitheral at 1:58 PM on December 7, 2016


That's why you do it in a a rental you drive up from Vermont.
posted by bonehead at 2:01 PM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well Quebec is named after a city that is, as far as we know, not in Montreal, so yes it appears that there are parts of Quebec that are not Montreal.

Right turns on red are legal in Quebec, except on the Island of Montreal (at the time it was "the city", since all former municipalities had been amalgamated, but now Westmount, Baie d'Urfé etc. are independent cities again).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:07 PM on December 7, 2016


Right turns on red are legal in Quebec

Even so, it still feels like I'm getting away with something when I make a right turm on red right in front of the MRC. Yet another benefit of living in Quebec.
posted by sfenders at 2:42 PM on December 7, 2016


Thanks to this thread I only just now realized that Quebec no longer bans right on red. I grew up in Ottawa but haven't lived there since 2004 which I guess means I should have heard about that when it went through... o_O
posted by quaking fajita at 4:37 PM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I still want that heist turned into a movie by either the Cohen brothers or Wes Anderson, starring Matt Damon and George Clooney wearing lots of flannel.

No no no, it has to be first in French by Erik Canuel of Good Cop Bon Cop fame ... and then by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas or Susan Coyne in English where the jokes are all different.

I demand starring roles for Colm Feore, Mary Walsh, Paul Gross, Jay Baruchel, and Elvira Kurt. Oh, and some weird chicken lady maple syrup scene with Kids in the Hall.
posted by chapps at 5:32 PM on December 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


and some weird chicken lady maple syrup scene with Kids in the Hall.

I think Jacques and François, the voyageurs, need to make an appearance as well.

Alouette, gentil alouette...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:26 PM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maple syrup heist movie done by tête a cláque or nothing
posted by GuyZero at 7:46 PM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Syrup robbery by gang of nuns, stopped by Mr canoehead.
posted by chapps at 12:39 AM on December 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


You realize that a warrant can be issued if you don't pay those fines right? So you'd want to leave Canada again after your orgy of right turns and then never come back.

My mom can probably go back to Saskatchewan these days, but for a while they were after her for doing 170-180kph (can't remember, it was nearly the top speed of the old minivan we had) down the highway. They kept sending letters with dire implications, as if we were on the verge of an international incident due to her failure to pay her traffic fine. I do remember that was the last Canadian summer vacation we took for a while.
posted by Hactar at 10:24 AM on December 20, 2016


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