Having taken in the smells and tastes of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival – we go every year with friends – perhaps you’re feeling inspired to try your hand at a few delicacies. Of course you can find every type of food imaginable amongst the large crowds that gather to celebrate this fantastic time of year. But for some of us, there is only one reason to go: the maple taffy on snow. We wait for what seems like hours to watch the experts re-create a past-time snack of yesteryear. Getting the temperature of the maple syrup just right in a large cauldron over an open fire of hot coals. Once its ready it is delicately poured on crisp white snow and then swirled around a popsicle stick to harden just right. Then it is ready to be slowly dissolved in your mouth by the lucky folks who have waited with patience.
This ‘dessert’ is actually something that we did at a dinner party for a fun, traditional and different ending to a meal. Fresh (clean!) snow was collected ahead of time and we waited with sticks in hand as the maple syrup came to just the right temperature in order to harden properly. Mmmmm.
Whether you made it out last weekend or not, read below for some tips on how to create your own ‘festival!’The following information comes from The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.
When making sugar, candy or maple butter with maple syrup it is all about the size of the sugar crystal and the temperature you boil it to determines this. A candy thermometer is a good investment to get these exact temperatures when working with boiling sugar. For example, to make maple butter we have a 2 degree Celsius window to get it right. 10°C-11°C above boiling, so if you are boiling water at 97°C and you boil your maple syrup to 110°C you will be actually boiling 13°C above boiling which is 3 degrees above your target of 10°C, and your maple butter won’t work.
Soft Maple Sugar
The syrup is boiled to a temperature of 114°-117°C (238°-242°F). It is cooled to 65°C (150°F) and stirred until it is a dull yellow colour. It is immediately poured into molds. The sugar crystallizes and can be readily cut with a knife.
Hard Maple Sugar
The syrup is boiled to a temperature of 121°-124°C (250°-256°F), a few degrees higher than for soft sugar and cooled to 93°C (200°F). It is stirred until it becomes cloudy and begins to thicken. Then it is poured into molds. The resulting hard block of sugar may be broken into chunks, crushed or grated.
The syrup is boiled to a temperature of 110°C-111°C (230°-232°F) and them rapidly cooled in pans set in cold water, to a temperature of 10°C (50°F) or below, then stirred continuously until creaming is completed.
Maple Taffy on Snow
The syrup is boiled to a temperature of 131°-132°C (268°-270°F) and then carefully poured onto crushed ice or snow. The resulting taffy is a delightful treat.