Sugar on Snow
But kids need to learn how to handle sugar responsibly, that is, how to gorge on wholesome, pure, natural, maple syrup cooked at home. You need at least one child to enjoy this concoction, preferably more. There are no video games or movies about this. Read Little House in the Big Woods to your children. In fact, reading to kids is always a good thing.
To start with you do need pure maple syrup. We can do this whole operation with no candy thermometer, so don't rush out and buy one. If you happen to have one, why, get it out and dust it off! At the right moment, you (or more properly, your little person) will need plates and bowls packed full of snow, clean snow. You also will need a clean saucepan with a much larger capacity than you think you need, and a spoon.
Now that we have all our supplies gathered (snow waiting outside, saucepan, spoon, 100% maple syrup and anxious small child), let's get to work. The amount of maple syrup you use should roughly correspond to how much you would let this child drink straight out of the bottle. No pancakes, no waffles, just straight syrup. Maybe a quarter of a cup per person? It depends on the rules in your family. You need more than enough to cover the bottom of the pan; otherwise it might scorch. Best would be 1 - 2 inches deep on the bottom of the pan, but as you'll see, that will make a lot of sugar on snow.
Next problem: where to put the anxious child? Maybe on a stool near the stove where he or she is out of the way but can watch the goings-on? You do not want an excited youngster pulling at you while you're trying to keep hot syrup from boiling over!
Now to begin. Start by heating the syrup slowly over medium heat until the edges start to bubble, or simmer. Cook it like this for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. In the picture on the right, the dark spot on the left is starting to get too hot. Don't let it get this hot! This pan was not large enough for the amount of syrup, so I had to pour some off.
Now comes the most important part of all: eating! First of all, warn your young participants not to touch their oddly shaped treats right away; remember, 250 degrees is quite a lot hotter than boiling, which is extremely hot. We don't want anyone to burn their little (or big) fingers. After the sticky-fest is over, everyone could probably use a warm bath.
Maple syrup can only be gotten from sugar maples for a few weeks early in spring (or late in winter) when the days are above freezing (so the sap can flow in the tree) but the nights are below freezing (so sugar is formed to be stored). In the really rural parts of New England and southern Canada, where there is snow cover for months, finding snow while there is fresh syrup is not a problem.
Where I grew up near Boston, however, it didn't snow every year, and if it did, the snow was usually dirty soon after it fell. My mother was right to be excited about the snow - she grew up in the South, and had only read about sugar on snow. We always had maple syrup on hand, and when - and if - it snowed, we would run out and fill our bowls, for we knew our mother would be boiling up the syrup!
And for home— or love— or any kind of sickness, ‘tis the thing.
Take in allopathic doses and repeat it every Spring.
Until everyone you meet, if at home or on the street,
Will have half a mind to bite you for you look so very sweet.*
*from an old Vermont song.
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