Sugar on Snow

by Ann Ingalls

Late one day in March, Winston and his father trudged through deep snow.
They were looking for just the right kind of snow. 
It needed to be crystalline and icy, not soft and fluffy. 
It needed to be packed down. 

“Look, Winston.” said Dad. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
They knelt in a shadowy patch of the white stuff. 
“Dig here,” Dad said.

Winston held a large scoop.
Dad carried the roaster pan that had cooked many Christmas turkeys.
Winston used both hands to scoop it into the pan. “Enough?” 
“Keep going,” said Dad. “Fill it to the brim.”
While they worked, they blinked away snow that settled on their eyelashes. 
Then, they headed back to the bright white farmhouse.

The pan was so heavy. 
Winston carried it for a while.
But when it got too heavy, he handed it his father.
“Hurry!” said Winston. “Mom’s waiting.”

The veranda floor creaked as they stomped the snow off their boots.
Winston pushed the door open.
“We found it, Mom!”

“Just what we needed,” she said.
Then she pulled a heavy pot from the cupboard and placed it on the stovetop.
After that, she poured in half a gallon of maple syrup. 

The syrup covered the bottom of the pan. 
It sizzled at first and settled down to a simmer. 
“It needs to come to a rolling boil,” Mom said.
Winston stood like a sentry, watching, waiting.  
Steam rose up from the swirling syrup.

“Son, flatten down the surface of the snow,” said Dad.
“Use a saucepan until the top is smooth and shiny.” 
With the bottom of the pan, 
Winston made several swipes before he was satisfied.

 “Just a few more minutes,” said Mom.
“It has to be just the right temperature. Maple syrup is finicky.”

And then she said, “It’s ready! Step back.”
She carried the Dutch to the table.
With a long-handled ladle,
She drizzled the sticky stuff across the snow.
It rippled and curled.
It looked like glass but crinkled like bacon.

“Me first!” said Winston. 
“You first.” agreed Dad.

Winston held a fork in his hand. 
He twirled the sugar candy until it looked like a small round bale of hay.
But oh, so delicious! 

Everyone took turns. 
“Don’t chew it, just lick. 
It can make your teeth stick together,” Mom teased.

She ladled more of the sticky stuff on top of the snow. 
Each time Winston made the snow smooth and even. 
“It looks like a tractor drove over it,” he said.

Sugar on snow. Just right, thought the small farm boy.

How to Make Sugar on Snow

This spring-time favorite has been cooked up at sugar houses and sugar camps for over 200 years. In some places, it is also known as “leather aprons” or “leather britches” because of its chewy, leathery consistency. Canadians and New Englanders call it sugar-on-snow. Here’s how to make it at home.

What You Will Need

Maple syrup, a pan of snow, sour pickles, saltines, or plain doughnuts–and an adult to help!

Heat the maple syrup to about 2340. Higher heat will make a stiffer product. As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, pour or drizzle it immediately, without stirring, over packed snow or shaved ice. It cools so quickly that it does not have a chance to crystallize.

It will form a thin glassy, chewy, taffy-like sheet over the snow. Twirl it up with a fork and enjoy! Serve it with sour pickles to cut the sweetness and saltines or plain doughnuts.

Maple Sugaring Facts

Pure maple syrup is only produced in North America in a region stretching from southeastern Canada to northern Michigan and Ohio. Sugar maples don’t grow anywhere else on earth. 

One in every four trees in northern New England is a sugar maple.

Abolitionists encouraged maple syrup production in New England to reduce the need for cane sugar, which was harvested by West Indian slaves. 

Maple syrup is processed on small farms and family-run operations throughout New England.

Sap can be tapped from a tree only when nighttime temperatures are below freezing, and daytime temperatures are above freezing. In New England, that means the harvest or “sugaring season” is six weeks or less. 

Raw sap looks like water and contains 2 percent sugar. It takes 25 to 75 gallons of raw sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup. 

The darker the syrup color, the stronger the maple flavor.

photo credit: Rosana Prada, Flickr, Creative Commons

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