This past Sunday morning, April 26, we woke up to this.
It's true, we live in Saskatchewan and we get a lot of winter here - I don't think the winter snow had actually completely melted until early April, but it WAS gone, and last week we had spent jacket-free days in the sunshine. I even used sunscreen one day last week! And then this happened...
Being from Saskatchewan, though, means that an unexpected snowstorm doesn't really mean anything. No one changes their plans, unless it was something they didn't really want to do anyway. The only reason anyone might actually stay home from work would be if they attempted to leave the garage and the car got physically stuck in the road - unable to move. This happened to me once. It took me an hour to free my vehicle enough to pull back up onto my driveway and off the street. This day would be no different, and Brian started nagging me to get ready for church, because I'm a crazy procrastinator and my greatest joy in life is to make him late for things. He thinks, anyway. Oddly enough, though, there was a power outtage in the area where our church building is located and we were suddenly bombarded with texts and emails informing us that church was cancelled.
An actual snow day.
So, with a long lazy day ahead, and no other plans, I was gazing out at the brilliantly white, clean snow and I remembered that nagging idea I kept having - always too late, after the snow had melted and become covered with dirt and leaves - Maple syrup snow taffy! I remember my Mom telling me about this - it's supposed to be a Canadian 'thing', what with the maple trees and all - and I had never tried it. Here was my chance.
I brought the snow in on a cookie sheet so we could do this at the kitchen table. Maybe when the girls are older we'll take it outside, but for now this seemed best. *See recipe at the bottom of this post.
Pouring the syrup in short ribbons of liquid gave us the best results. Picking up the syrup within about 5-10 seconds or so also made it easier to shape around the lollipop stick.
Then I let the girls play.
Clara made a few small pops, while Audrey made one giant blob and ate it as quickly as she could. When the syrup was all gone, I left the pan on the table and let the girls continue to play in the snow from the warm comfort of the kitchen. Audrey kept eating - the girl will snack on ice like it's popcorn.
I gave them excavation tools - small spoons and forks. They got a bit over-exuberant and I was glad I had used a baking sheet that I wasn't all that fond of.
Excessive giggling ensued, the cause of which I couldn't quite say. They had fun, anyway.
I followed up with another snow recipe I found online - Snow ice cream with sweetened condensed milk. I didn't exactly 'follow' the recipe (I don't really like doing what I'm told...) and I can't find the blog again now, so I apologize I can't link it. It involved an ice cream pail full of fresh snow plus a can of sweetened condensed milk. I actually thought it was really good - icy and cold, yet sweet. My husband didn't really enjoy it, but he also doesn't like snow cones and it was similiar, just creamy. I decided I would appreciate it much more on a hot summer day when it would be impossible to make... so I probably won't make that one again. Oh well.
The maple syrup taffy, though, that was a hit and we'll definitely do it again.
I looked up about a dozen recipes - as I typically do - to get the 'idea' of it, and set about to try this myself. So, again, I can't link to any particular recipe - my apologies, you're stuck with my unsure variation.
- Fresh, clean snow - one recipe I found suggested packing it down, which I did. Since I brought it in on a tray, though, I think I'll skip this part next time. The syrup didn't really sink into the snow, and I wonder if the effects would have been better on softer snow.
- 100 % Maple syrup - I used about a cup (didn't measure precisely), and it would have served 8 people easily, although I try to limit our sugar intake, so take that as you will.
- Some kind of lollipop sticks, or popcicle sticks for picking it up
I put the syrup in a small sauce pan and boiled it until a drop of syrup in a glass of cold water formed a soft ball. The boiling took quite awhile (I didn't time it), and occasionally it threatened to boil over and required pretty much constant attention and stirring for the time it took. If you had a candy thermometer (I don't), you could research the exact temperature required - that would probably be easier than what I did. The syrup drop appeared to be quite liquid still, but I could pick it up and shape it with my fingers. I wouldn't have wanted it to get much firmer - although some recipes said that this would just create a harder, crunchier candy.
Immediately after cooking the syrup to desired temperature, I drizzled it onto the snow. We waited a few seconds for the syrup to solidify slightly in the snow, but we found it worked best if we didn't wait too long either, or the syrup became too hard to pick up with the stick. We could still pick it up with our fingers, though, and it still tasted fine, so not a complete waste. Our best technique was to poke the largest end of the syrup strip and roll it up as much as possible around itself to form a lollipop on the end of the stick.
I set the saucepan down on the stove with the remaining syrup - only half comfortably fit in drizzles on my baking sheet - and I don't know if it became too cool, or what changed, but the rest of the syrup didn't produce very good taffy. It had become opaque - maybe with tiny bubbles - and didn't have the smooth, glassy consistency that the first amount had. Audrey still ate it, and it was still sugary and candy-like, but not as nice as the earlier stuff.
There you have it, next time you have a random summer snow day - try something you can't do after the snow has gotten old and trampled.
Looking forward to plus 20 (celsius) temperatures this week!!