Usually by Christmas Eve, I’ve baked at least half a dozen batches of cookies, but this year for a change, the kids and I made candy for their teachers: salted chocolate pecan toffee, spiced chocolate bark with dried cherries and pumpkin seeds, and, now that we’re in snowy Connecticut, a kind of maple candy called jack wax.
It’s always a bit of a nostalgia trip for me to come to Connecticut, where I relive with my boys some of the farm and garden life I experienced as a kid with my grandparents. In the summer, we gorge on fresh berries and vegetables from the garden. In the winter, we plan our meals around what my Dad’s put up in the freezer. The boys start every day with a bowl of thawed frozen berries, and we continue from there, pulling from pantry and freezer, making soups with the squash, chili with the dried beans, gratins with the potatoes, pastas with the frozen chard, broccoli, beans and peas.
This winter, we’ve arrived to find over a foot of fresh snow on the ground and plenty of last year’s syrup in the pantry, and so I finally got to teach the boys how to make a snack I first read about in Little House in the Big Woods. As a Christmas treat, Ma Ingalls boiled up molasses and sugar (it was too early in the year for fresh maple syrup) and Pa brought in two skillets full of fresh snow; Mary and Laura drizzled the thick syrup over the snow to make candy. My siblings, cousins and I did this with our grandparents when we were kids, but it’s likely been thirty years since I’ve eaten fresh maple candy. All you need is a cup of syrup and some fresh snow.
Boil the syrup until it comes to about 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, or let a drop fall from your spoon into a cup of cold water to test; it should form a soft ball. Drizzle over a pan of fresh snow. Eat.
It looks like this: