When I was growing up in Alabama, snow was the kind of meteorological rarity that school-age kids prayed for and parents dreaded. A light dusting in the forecast could shut down the roads for a day, and ensure the grocery stores were immediately emptied of milk, bread, lightbulbs, and emergency Cheese Puffs. So when I came to college in New York and saw snow in the forecast, unlike some of my fellow, snow-jaded undergrads, I got excited. For sledding and snow angels, and, of course, trying to recreate the maple syrup candy in Little House in the Big Woods. In one particularly idyllic passage in that Laura Ingalls Wilder classic, Wisconsin grandparents whipped up this treat during maple season. "Grandma stood by the brass kettle and with a big wooden spoon she poured hot syrup on each plate of snow. It cooled into a soft candy, and as fast as it cooled they ate it.” Sounds dope, right?
Unfortunately there is a little more to it than just maple syrup and snow, as I learned my freshman year of college. You have to heat the maple syrup until it reaches "soft ball" stage in the candymaking vernacular, or roughly 235°F. If you try to just spread maple syrup on snow, you will get a plate of sticky snow. Not undelicious, but not exactly candy.
So with snow in the forecast yesterday, I set out to make my maple taffy dreams come true, armed with a little bit more internet research and a candy thermometer. And guess what? It totally worked and was delicious. All you do is collect some clean, fresh snow. (I live in New York City, so I actually set a pan out overnight for it to snow into and scraped off the top layer just as insurance against pigeons or lingering rat particles or whatever else I am constantly breathing in.) Throw the snow in a pie pan or a cookie sheet, or some kind of pan with a wide surface. Put that in the freezer to stay cold while you boil the syrup.
Then, just bring roughly half a cup of maple syrup to boil over medium heat. You can use more or less syrup, depending on your candy desires. One recipe I saw called for two cups, which seemed like more candy than I should reasonably, casually eat by myself at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, so I went with half a cup and found it perfect. The wise people at The Kitchn recommend Grade B maple syrup, but I just used what I had on hand, which was Grade A. I heated the syrup until it was about 235°F and then poured it slowly into the bed of snow. Within a couple minutes, it had hardened into sticky-sweet maple candy. I took it off the snow sheet and put it onto a plate so I could use the snow bed again for more. That's it.
For good measure, I also used some good old Aunt Jemima fake maple syrup (meaning the kind made from high fructose corn syrup, rather than tapped from maple trees), because sometimes that's what you've got, and also certain breakfast site editors may have recently found in a surprise taste test that they like the taste better. (Hi, it me.) And you know what? That worked too. The Aunt Jemima candy was stickier than the candy made with real maple syrup, and thus had a more taffy-toffee kind of texture to it, but it was still really, really good. If you have some snow outside that doesn't look like it'll kill you, why not boil some maple syrup and eat it like candy? There are worse ways to spend a snow day.