Growing up we seemed to have a lot more snow than we ever do now. I grew up just down the hill from where I live now…. in fact our house sits in the field we played in as children. And that field always was a thick blanket of fluffy snow whenever winter rolled around. So much snow, it crested our red rubber boots and filled in around our grocery bag enrobed feet. So much snow, you could sit down and not touch the ground, carving a little seat with your bottom. So much snow, Mom had to get creative to avoid cabin fever.
And that’s where she introduced us to Maple Syrup candy.
But before we go there, let me tell you, when we moved back here about ten years ago, the lure of being in the country and having maple trees got me to fantasizing about all the beauty of living in New England and what we didn’t take advantage of, and how we had the freedom to do so now. I convinced my family, and my father, that doing our own syrup harvest from all these trees was a marvelous idea! We purchased equipment, researched technique, recorded sugar dates. We brainstormed rendering methods and calculated times and costs. We read books to the kids, had them help in preparing the tools of the trade and spent a good two weekends setting up the gerry-rigged collecting buckets, tapping the trees and shielding the nectar of the wood from insects and other predators. We were in it to win it for sure.
We came away that sugar season with about ten pint size glass jars of the stuff. It takes a lot, I mean A LOT of maple sap to make maple syrup. And as we discovered, a lot of propane to boil it down to the proper viscosity. And as it boils it certainly needs tending. So a lot of time just watching.
I think we calculated that each small pint of our own breed of maple sugar, cost about $78. Liquid gold indeed.
But I digress.
Maple Syrup candy is so simple and yet it amazes kids and adults alike. The ingredients are basic: A large, heaping, baking dish of fresh snow (fresh is critical), some creamy butter and a good size bottle of REAL maple syrup. Hungry Jack has no place at this party.
- 1 Cup Maple Syrup (Grade A or B is fine)
- 1/4 cup butter
In a sauce pan, heat the maple syrup and butter over medium heat, stirring to avoid a boil over. We were never allowed to do this as kids, but we could pull up a chair at a safe distance and watch.
Continue to boil the mixture for about 6 minutes, or until the temp reaches 220 to 235 on a candy thermometer. The real test, as my Mom showed us, is when you drip some of the stuff into a cold glass of water, it should form a stiff but pliable ball. Then its done. Remove from heat and let it cool for two minutes.
Meanwhile, fill the baking dish with fresh snow and pat it down to a firm, but not icy, block.
Carefully pour the cooled syrup/butter mixture over the snow in ribbons. Some people have even poured it in small discs and placed a lollipop stick in the middle. Too commercial for our taste, we truly loved ripping the ribbons off the snow and gorging our mouths with them as quickly as we could. Unless of course we were in competition and then my sister would slowly, so painfully slowly, lick her maple syrup candy, making it last forever and forcing us to each slow down to be the last to finish. The reward? Watching the others watch you while you still had candy. She won every time, dammit.
I don’t know why Maple Syrup candy made us so happy, in a day and age when we could have candy any time we wanted. Maybe it was the pioneer spirit of crafting our own edibles. Maybe it was the idea that snow could not only provide us with endless playtime possibilities, it could cancel school, AND give us sweet treats to eat as well.
I think this snow day is a perfect one for Maple Syrup candy. My kids aren’t too old for that yet, are they?