Sugar on Snow

December 8, 2008

Maple Syrup

In honor of the first snowfall of the season that I did not sleep through, I am sharing a recipe for a New England delicacy I first learned of this weekend. You may recall Laura Ingalls indulging in a wintry mix of boiling-hot maple syrup over snow in Little House in the Big Woods (although I certainly did not remember this and thank my friend LBM for the reference). As a loyal fan of maple sugar candy from childhood trips to Vermont, I was surprised to hear of another maple confection with the consistency of sticky taffy.

With a little research behind me, I can tell you that Sugar on Snow is actually a springtime tradition in northern New England and Canada. Hot syrup (225-245 degrees) is poured over snow at sugar houses during the maple syrup harvest. Better yet, there are sugar on snow parties, where the maple taffy is served with fresh donuts, sour dill pickles and coffee.  The pickles and coffee are said to enhance the maple flavor and cut the sweetness. Some even serve a side of maple syrup for donut-dunking. Um, you had me at donuts. And sugar theme party.

Since there was no accumulating snow last night–and city snow likely harbors all things toxic–I was happy to find recipes suggesting food-processed ice as a substitute. Here’s a simple recipe adapted from

Heat maple syrup to about 2340 F, a candy thermometer is helpful. As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, pour or drizzle immediately, without stirring, over packed snow or shaved ice. Because it cools so rapidly, the supersaturated solution does not have a chance to crystallize. It will form a chewy, taffy-like sheet over the snow. Twirl it up with a fork and enjoy!

The following video offers a glimpse of sugar-on-snow making at a Canadian sugar camp: