My mother grew up in upstate New York, where feet of snow in the winter was the norm. Her family also owned a sugar bush, where they made maple syrup. Galen Lehman, my brother, says, “Nearly 100 years ago, my grandpa bought the farm where the trees that provide our syrup grow. My family has been tapping those trees ever since. I didn’t help this year, but I have personally tapped the very trees this syrup came from. There’s nothing in the can but maple syrup. (Compare that to the ingredients list on your pancake syrup.) And the taste will knock your socks off!”
A fun winter activity she taught us was “wax on snow,” also known as “sugar on snow.” This is a delish treat that occurs when you heat real (none of that fake stuff) maple syrup to 235 degrees and then drizzle it onto hard packed snow. You then take a fork and wrap the sticky sweetness around the tongs and enjoy it. You can also test the syrup on a small container of snow before heading outside.
A fun surprise for my children was keeping a container of snow in the freezer until the summer, and then recreating this sticky, sweet treat. It tastes kind of like a harder version of maple-flavored taffy.
Here are some tips to ensure your success:
- The boiling gradually speeds up as there is less water in the pot, so watch it carefully. Faster is not always better, so medium heat might be safer.
- Make sure you use a patch of clean snow. It sounds obvious but you want to avoid any snow with dirt or footprints or signs of animals.
- Your syrup will probably want to boil over the top of the pan. When it starts to boil this can be managed by keeping the temperature low for a little while. It also can help to put a rim of butter around the pan about 2″ above the boiling syrup. Just use a fork to rub some butter on the hot pan. This will keep the syrup bubbles from climbing up the sides.
- Burning syrup is an awful smell. Don’t walk away from the pan. And ensure your children are aware of the dangers in the boiling pot.
- When you’re all done, fill the sticky pot up with water and put it back on the stove to simmer for 2-3 minutes. It’ll be much easier to clean.
Enjoy and hopefully make one of my family traditions, one of yours!