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Making Sugar Snow Maple Candy
An Early American Pioneer Craft
by Quaker Anne

Note: This project is an excellent opportunity to study early American history with children.
History never tasted so good! This story was written for the young at heart.

Maple Syrup Fact: Maple syrup production is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States.

When maple syrup is made in early spring, it provides an opportunity to make a delicious unique candy called "Snow Candy" or Sugar-on-Snow.

In the pioneer days, once the sap from maple trees had been boiled down into maple syrup some was set to make maple sugar candy. Maple sugar is made from boiling maple syrup until it granulates, but just minutes before it granulates, a chewy candy can be made by pouring the thick candy-like syrup onto fresh clean snow. Cooled for just a few seconds, it can then be pulled and handled like taffy - that's called Snow Candy!

In the old days, sugar season was a wonderful time of the year that lasted only a few weeks. The work was hard and long but the resulting maple syrup and sugar was well worth it. Working on this project gives one an opportunity to feel what it must have been like to have real pioneer candy. Remember, back then sugar was a very rare luxury and "Snow Candy" was an extra special treat!

How to make Snow Candy
Only 2 ingredients are needed to make Snow Candy:

  • 2 cups of maple syrup and
  • Fresh, clean snow

    This is a task for a Mom, Dad or adult to do with youngsters because liquid candy is very, very hot. Please use caution.

    glass pie pan First, fill a container with clean fresh packed snow and set aside outside where it will stay nice and cold. A pie plate works well for the project.

    slowly heat maple syrup Next, pour maple syrup into a sauce pan and heat gradually until syrup begins to boil. Adjust temperature when it gets to a rolling boil to keep it from boiling over.

    bring syrup to a boil After just a few minutes on heat just low enough to keep a low rolling boil, the bubbles will begin to change in color and consistency. There is no need to stir, but it must be monitored constantly - literally, don't take your eyes off the project.

    large bubbles At first the mixture boils with a good amount of large airy bubbles - the mass will be light amber in color.

    If you are using a thermometer, heat maple syrup to 22 to 28 degrees F. above the boiling point of water. Heating the syrup to around 234 works well. A higher heat will make a stiffer candy.

    fewer large bubbles As the hot syrup nears the candy stage, there will be fewer and fewer large bubbles and the mass will become more foamy in consistency.

    We actually don't use a candy thermometer because we want to preserve the true nature of the craft by teaching others how our ancestors did this without the use of modern kitchen aids.

    foamy, glassy look, ready to pour In a mere matter of seconds, the rolling liquid will become uniform in consistency and the beautiful amber mass will take on a glassy appearance. This is the stage where it is ready to pour - you now have liquid candy!

    Pour the liquid in a thin stream onto the snow in your pan. This liquid candy is very, very hot!

    Make large swirls and even pretty designs but do not pour too much on top of itself.

    It will cool so rapidly that it does not have a chance to crystallize. The result is a glassy looking, chewy, taffy-like candy on the the snow.

    pick up a piece of maple candy

    Wait about 15 seconds - just long enough for the candy to cool to touch, and pick up your first piece of real maple sugar candy. You can use a fork or your fingers - it is best to butter your fingers first so your fingers don't get sticky.

    pull like taffy

    But wait, before you taste it, pull and twist it a little like taffy - you can make interesting shapes and designs with it.

    Be sure to collect your candy and put it in a place to dry. If you leave it on the snow for too long, it will begin to melt.

    It is customary to enjoy Maple Sugar Snow Candy with plain donuts and even sour pickles to help cut the sweet taste a bit.

    Now you know one of the ways pioneer families celebrated the arrival of spring time!

    Click here to learn all about where our maple syrup comes from!

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