Thursday, 28 January 2010

Childhood Ambition Realised - Sugar on Snow

When I was a little girl, my mother and aunts spent a lot of time reading to me. Some of the books that they read to me captured my imagination and have stayed with me for 30 odd years - Teddy Robinson being ex-and-shoff at a birthday party, Millie Molly Mandy's pink and white striped frock, the Beaver's house on the dam in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Of course, me being me, a lot of the things that have stayed with me have involved the food in those books - marmalade rolypoly, marrow and ginger jam, ginger biscuits with ham as picnic food. And maple syrup sugar on snow in Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Little House in the Big Woods. When I got Diana Henry's excellent winter food cookbook Roast Figs, Sugar Snow, I discovered that I was not the only one. The image of gathering the maple sap, boiling it in big cauldrons and pouring it onto fresh snow to make a sticky, dark brown toffee was unimaginable alchemy to me.

Now, as you may have heard, the UK has had an unusually snowy winter. The first two years we were here there was hardly any snow at all. Last year there was quite a lot. This year there has been an enormous amount, as this video of Urchin's first venture into it attests. She was initially very sceptical, but she took to it after a while.
video
As we had sufficient clean snow, I decided that the time really had come to try my own sugar on snow. I bought a bottle of organic Canadian maple syrup, fetched a pan of snow and set to it. It's really not rocket science, but a candy thermometer takes the guess work out of it.
It froths up a lot as it boils, so use a larger pan than you think you need. The traditional accompaniments are sour pickles and doughnuts. I didn't have either - I just lifted the lacy toffee off the snow with a fork and ate it. Pouring the boiling syrup onto snow and not having the snow instantly melt really is magic. And it is delicious, with a much more complex flavour than a plain cane sugar toffee. But that being said, now that I have done it, I don't need to do it again, unless some day we end up in Vermont in winter.

24 comments:

HH said...

That is awesome FC and an excellent use of snow and maple syrup. When I was in Canada we went to a winter fest in Montreal and they were selling this - they poured it in a line on the snow and then rolled it up onto a stick so you had, in essence, a maple syrup lolly pop, it was fantastic - they may or may not have been getting it straight from a tree - I could be making that bit up - but either way, awesome!

The Cat's Mother said...

I think you should label this nostalgia as well!

Foodycat said...

HH - rolling it onto a stick sounds fun!

Mother - I thought I had! Has been corrected now.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Every (Eastern) Canadian has had this treat at some school trip to the sugar shacks! Great that you tried it yourself - I'm not sure where those accompaniments are from... but maybe French Canada. We just had the straight sugar on snow.
The smaller (family) sugar shacks will boil it down right there and then. Delish!

Su-Lin said...

Yes! I used to read Little House in the Big Woods all the time for that sugaring part. This is so cool! (of course, I'm not sure I'd trust London snow...)

Foodycat said...

Natashya - Could be French Canadian; rumour has it they poach eggs in syrup, so I wouldn't put anything past them! But the pickles seem to be a New England thing.

Su-Lin - it's the advantage of living a bit outside London!

kat said...

I should totally try that especially since I live so close to Big Woods country

Teri @ Make A Whisk said...

I loved Little House in the Big Woods and have always wanted to make snow candy. It's awesome that you got to try it!

Foodycat said...

Kat - you definitely should! Sounds like you are pretty much guaranteed snow every year to do it with too!

Teri - aren't they such magical books?

ARLENE said...

Great post. It brought back childhood memories for me as well. I, too, read about snow candy and remember making it as a child. We used pancake syrup, so not so delicious, but such a wonder to a child.

Johanna said...

WOW, what a great way to "utilize" the snow!

Foodycat said...

Arlene - I am starting to think we should do some Laura Ingalls Wilder for Cook the Books!

Johanna - thanks! It was fun!

Esi said...

My friend from Montreal was just telling me about doing this with maple syrup when she was a kid. Sounds interesting, but I don't know that I would do it myself. lol

A Year on the Grill said...

MR Science... um, MS Science

Chef Aimee said...

Little House in the Big Woods was one of my favorite books...and I love how you brought back so many childhood memories in this post. :)

mscrankypants said...

I don't remember sugar on snow in literature, but I wish I could as it sounds like a wonderful winter treat. Urchin is the sweetest!

Foodycat said...

Esi - you don't really live in the right climate for it!

AYOTG - Thanks!

Aimee - I really think I am going to have to buy myself a new copy.

Cranky - she is, isn't she? I love when she falls on her nose.

Karine said...

I grew up in a place where I had maple syrup on snow every year. I so loved it!

Velva said...

Beautiful! I really enjoyed this post.

Foodycat said...

Karine - I can't even imagine that! I grew up in a country where it hardly ever snows at all!

Velva - thank you so much!

The Cat's Mother said...

I'm consoling myself with the thought that we can get local mangoes for A$12 per box right now. Trade off for no maple trees / syrup / autumn colours.

Debinhawaii said...

Very fun--my Mom used to make a similar one for us once in awhile on a snow day because of our fascination of it and all things in the Little House books. ;-)

Foodycat said...

Mother - yes, QLD mangoes are a considerable consolation!

Deb - I'm glad you understand!

Choclette said...

Oh how wonderful to actually try this out. Laura's sugar on snow was such a delight to read about as a child. Maybe it's time I read the books again.

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