Have you ever had Sugar on Snow? This northern New England treat celebrates maple syrup season. Enjoyed with donuts and pickles, sugar on snow bids winter farewell and welcomes spring. I found myself missing a trip to a sugar shack, and so I recreated sugar on snow in my city kitchen. If we can’t travel, we can cook.
Delicious and fun, if incredibly messy, this is a great activity to try with kids.
March in Northern New England
March means one thing to those of us who hail from northern New England in the US. Well, one thing if you don’t count blizzards, the Spring of Deception, mud (so much mud), and potholes.
March means sugaring season, aka maple syrup season.
I guess when you think about it, the blizzards, Spring of Deception, mud, and potholes also mean maple syrup, because the wildly vacillating weather creates the necessary conditions for it.
With the melting snow comes maple syrup
Come March, the longer, sunnier days, combined with cool nights, causes the sap to flow in sugar maple trees (I have learned today that you can get sap for maple syrup from other varieties of maple, but that it isn’t as sweet). Tap some of that sap, add wood fire in a sugar shack, and you get one of the tastiest treats on this beautiful Earth. Northern New England, along with Quebec, produce the best maple syrup (I am biased, but it’s true), and, while not my lifeblood, maple syrup certainly flows through my memories.
Heading to the sugar shack
When I was a girl, my family would bundle up in boots (always boots) and whatever necessary layers were required for that day (plus an extra warm coat, because March), and, together with family friends, drive to Windswept Maples farm, operated by the Moore family, in Loudon, New Hampshire.
After tromping around the farm, seeing the cows and other animals, we would visit the sugar shack. Now, if you have never been in a maple sugar shack, you are missing out. Smoky wood fire, and the sweet smell of sap boiling down into maple syrup is nothing short of divine. We’d get to look at buckets of sap and taste a little, and then watch it boil in the metal troughs, and then we would all pile into a large open room for the main event.
Sugar on Snow, with donuts and pickles
At a table laden with homemade donuts and pickles, as well as big sheet pans of snow, we would all sit down to a hot bowl of maple syrup. A whole bowl of maple syrup all to myself, what could be better?
We got to play with our food. The most fun thing to do with that syrup was to spoon it out over snow, which would turn it into this soft, gooey candy, and then eat it.
Sugar on Snow, that delicious experiment is called. Unlike the maple syrup the region exports, I would be rather surprised if anyone who grew up outside of the region has heard of it. Have you?
I never really understood the point of the donuts and pickles, because, to me, a big ol’ bowl of sugar was the thing. I loved pickles, but not the homemade kind at the table. But the adults would eat it up.
After I’d had my fill of Sugar on Snow, I’d stir and stir and stir my remaining syrup and make maple candy.
Best. Day. Ever.
Missing sugaring season and my nephew and nieces
Walking around outside this week, I could smell spring and found myself missing sugaring season. My nephew and my youngest niece share a birthday, which was also this week, and, due to the pandemic, I missed seeing them (again. I missed last year, too). We have a “secret” Sugar Club, the meetings consisting of their Auntie Sara sneaking them sweets. With my oldest niece, I also co-chair a Pickle Society. We eat pickles. This week I really missed the kids and our culinary adventures.
I decided to try and recreate sugar on snow here at home to remember childhood and fun times with the kids. A true northern New England native, I always have real maple syrup on hand (pancake syrup is an abomination), so all I had to do was get old-fashioned donuts, which I did tout suite (homage to Quebec, that) from Kane’s Donuts.
Sugar on Snow: The Urban Hack Version
- Real maple syrup as much as you think that you’ll eat (a little goes a long way—the pickles and donuts only cut the sweet so much)
- Crushed ice enough for everyone to have about 1 cup
- Old-fashioned cake donuts 1 per person
- Pickles as many as desired, per person (in this case, I had cornichons on hand, but traditionally, you’d have homemade dill pickles)
- Crush the ice in your blender, or, if your blender is kinda terrible like mine, put the ice in a plastic bag and bash it with a mallet. Put it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it
- In a saucepan with high enough sides to allow the syrup to boil vigorously, boil your maple syrup until it reaches 235F (softball stage). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test this by dropping a little into a bowl of water and seeing if it forms a little ball. Remove from heat
- Take your “snow” out of the freezer and put it in a dish. Spoon the hot maple syrup onto the snow. The reaction (science!) takes place quickly. Remove from the snow with toothpicks, a spoon, or your fingers (if you don’t mind getting a bit messy)
- Enjoy with the pickles and donuts. When you’re done making sugar on snow, stir up the rest of your syrup until you have maple butter or maple candy