1. Like all good recipes, this one starts with a quest: find clean snow. Suggestions: backyards, rooftops, the inner layers of snow banks. Let it be known that no snow is truly clean and the notion itself of untouched snow is anthropomorphic projection. Nevertheless, attempt the impossible.
2. Collect a small bucket’s worth of snow. The Roman emperor Nero used to send slaves to the mountains to gather snow for him. Feel the weight of history in your gloved hands. Scoop the snow into a baking pan or any large container. Pat it down, so that you have a compact two-inch layer of snow covering the area of the pan. Do this quickly so that the snow does not melt and then store the pan in the freezer or outside.
3. Pour one cup of maple syrup and one teaspoon of butter (optional) into a saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat. If you have a candy thermometer, heat the syrup until it reaches 255˚F. If you do not have one, heat the syrup, stirring occasionally, for fifteen minutes. To test if it is ready, drop a small spoonful of syrup on the snow. It should stick to the surface and harden.
4. Pour the syrup into lines on the snow. Keep an eye on it; last December, $18 million of maple syrup was stolen. That’s six million pounds. And it wasn’t the first large-scale maple syrup theft. $1.3 million worth was reported stolen in a single incident in 2006. This won’t be the last we hearn of sweet-toothed thieves, so beware.
5. Wait a few seconds for the syrup to harden slightly and then take a Popsicle stick or the non-business end of any utensil and wrap the resultant syrup taffy around the stick. Repeat for each line of syrup. Consider that maple syrup has buttressed the American diet in times of hardship: it was the sweetener used by the abolitionists during the Civil War, protesting the slave-based cane sugar industry. The Roosevelt administration encouraged wartime households to supplement their rationed cane sugar intake with maple products.
6. The taffy should be chewy and sticky. If you were in it for the candy, you can stop here. If you want the total experience, prepare one of the three following drinks and dip the taffy-sticks in them. What do you taste? The government agency Agriculture Canada is developing a maple syrup flavor wheel of 91 different terms. Mostly, it is sweet.
Maple Dark & Stormy
2 oz. spiced rum
8 oz. ginger beer
¼ oz. maple syrup
2 slices raw ginger muddled with lime juice
The Maple Leaf
2 oz. rye or bourbon whiskey
½ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. maple syrup
Sweet & Spicy Apple Cider
2 oz. whiskey
8 oz. apple cider
dashes of cinnamon, all-spice, nutmeg
Pour some sugar on Anna Rotman B’15.
Illustrated by Stella Chung.