My grandma was born and raised in a tiny little mountain town called Unaka. She would tell me stories of how a man in a wagon would travel through the mountains to sell soap and coffee, explained how she made her clothes from flour sacks, and how bad the winters could be.
One of my most favorite childhood memories is sitting beside my grandma while she read to me. Laura Ingalls Wilder was one of my favorite authors at that time, and listening to grandma read Little House in the Big Woods was such a comfort. I loved hearing about how the family in that book lived and worked. I think that is why I now have such a deep love of canning my own food, using a woodstove, and carrying on other old mountain traditions.
No matter how bad the people Wilder wrote about or my grandma had it, there was always a way to make something out of nothing. Tapping trees to get fresh maple syrup was a special winter treat, as you could make a delicious taffy candy from it.
We got our first winter snowfall last night, and I immediately thought back to Wilder's stories of maple taffy. I always have pure maple syrup on hand, so I thought I would make a batch.
Please note that this candy will liquify pretty quickly because of the water in the snow, so it is best to eat it as soon as you make it. Now, of course the people in the past did not have a candy thermometer to make their taffy, but I am using one to help remove the guesswork and prevent waste of expensive syrup.
What you need:
a baking pan or casserole dish PACKED tightly with fresh snow
1/2 cup of PURE maple syrup
**Do not use maple-flavored fake syrups like pancake syrup. Only use pure Grade A or Grade B syrup.**
How to make it:
1. Place your pan or dish of packed snow on your kitchen counter.
2. In a small, heavy pot, boil the maple syrup until it reaches roughly 220-230 degrees (the soft ball stage). Once it reaches this temperature, keep it that way for right at 2 minutes.
3. Drizzle the syrup over the snow, and you will see that it toughens up into a gooey, taffy-like substance. Pick it up with your finger, or scoop it up with a spoon, and eat it!