If you read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as a child, you’ll undoubtedly remember the chapter in “Little House in the Big Woods” where Wilder attends a “sugaring-off” party and they make maple syrup candy in the snow. She remembered that party for the rest of her life, and described it so well that most of her fans do too.
Unfortunately, our Kansas climate isn’t quite right for maple syrup to flow the way it does up north. But why should that stop us all from enjoying a few sweet nibbles as a winter treat and making some good memories along the way?
Not only is making maple syrup candy fun, it’s also great entertainment for a snow day when the kids are stuck inside. Even better, you’ll only need three ingredients: pure maple syrup, butter and a patch of clean snow.
While Wilder’s family made the candy by tossing the combined syrup and butter outside into the snow, I think it’s easier — particularly making this with younger children — to bring a bowl of snow inside, instead. Just stash it in the freezer to keep cold while you’re heating the syrup.
At a real sugaring-off party, maple syrup candy would traditionally be eaten with pickles and saltine crackers to cut the sweetness, but feel free to improvise with whatever salty food is in your pantry. The only thing to be careful of is your dental work — this candy is definitely sticky enough to do some damage if you indulge too vigorously!
Maple Syrup Candy
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
A bowl of clean snow
Collect a bowl of clean snow from outside, and put it in your freezer while you work.
Then, combine the syrup and butter in a saucepan with high sides. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture to 220 degrees. The syrup will be a molten, sticky mess, so this is definitely a step for grown-ups to do.
Once it’s hot enough, turn off the heat and let the mixture rest for about a minute. Then, remove your snow from the freezer and drizzle the syrup out into long ribbons. As soon as you see a skin start to form on top of the syrup, it’s cool enough to carefully peel out of the snow.
This recipe makes enough for everyone to try a bite and then some. If you end up with leftovers, they can be kept in the fridge for at least a few weeks. They’ll stick together, but that didn’t stop anyone at our house from enjoying them for an entire snowstorm.
— Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in Lawrence and writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at www.mybitofearth.net.