If you haven’t yet enjoyed sticky-sweet maple taffy, there’s no better time than now. Each bite is sinfully delicious and ordinary confections blush in embarrassment when compared.
Between February and April, manufacturers extract maple sap (a sweet, water-like liquid) from maple trees, and then carefully craft it into something special.
Should you find yourself in the maple syrup regions of Maine the fourth Sunday in March, you can partake in the wholesome fun of Maple Sunday. On those days, maple syrup producers open their doors and show off their process.
Not in Maine or a similarly maple-syrup-rich area? No worries! Let’s learn all about how this sweet stuff is traditionally made, and how you can create your very own maple taffy at home.
How Do You Make Maple Syrup?
As warmer weather approaches, maple trees turn stored starch into sugar, which is what creates that subtly sweet sap. People drill holes in the trunk of a maple tree to tap it.
They then attach a spout and bucket, which catches all that liquid gold. Today, though, many sugar farmers excrete maple sap through tubing systems and collection tanks.
Once it’s collected, the sap goes through a boiling process that evaporates the water. As the water boils off, the maple syrup reaches a concentration level, which helps turn the fluid into a syrupy consistency.
Once the liquid reaches seven degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water, a gorgeous golden colored delicacy is born. Voila! You’ve got maple syrup.
The Benefits of Maple Syrup
From Nutrients and vitamins to antioxidant compounds, each spoonful provides an abundance of health benefits. According to Acadian Maple, these benefits include the following:
- Zinc: Helps with heart health and the immune system.
- Calcium: Great for bone health.
- Manganese: Lowers the risk of heart disease.
- Potassium: Aids in supporting healthy blood pressure.
Like most things, you should consume maple syrup in moderation, but it’s definitely worth replacing the faux corn syrup stuff you’ve got hanging around in your pantry (sorry, Aunt Jemima).
Although this all-natural sweetener is full of health benefits, it still holds a high sugar content, which can lead to health problems. Replacing refined sugar with 100 percent pure maple is undoubtedly the healthier option, though.
However, we don’t recommend you douse pancakes with it every single morning—self-control is vital once you indulge in this sweet syrup.
Different Grades of Maple Syrup
Not all maple syrups are created equal. Seriously, each is graded by quality, color, and flavor profile. While many people swear they know which grade is best, it depends on preference and for what purpose you’re using it.
All pure maple syrup is processed and created in the same way. However, as springtime passes and things warm up, the sap from the trees gets darker and builds a stronger flavored maple syrup. It’s available in the following grades:
- Grade A: Also called “Vermont Fancy,” this syrup has a very light color, and a sophisticated flavor compared to the other grades.
- Grade A Medium Amber: A slightly darker hue, but still very aromatic and flavorful.
- Grade A Dark Amber: Strong and robust maple flavors are present in this grade. It’s often used in baked goods. Many choose the dark amber for its traditional and robust flavor.
- Grade B: Usually collected and crafted at the end of the sugaring season, this maple syrup is dark and carries an intense flavor. It’s also commonly and traditionally used in baking and cooking. It’s considered a cooking grade syrup.
How to Make Maple Taffy
Maple taffy is a sugar candy. To make it, you boil maple syrup, and then pour it on clean, packed snow. If you don’t have any fresh snow available, you can blend ice cubes to make some.
Maple taffy (tire d’érable) is a French-Canadian tradition we think everyone should try. So, break out some popsicle sticks, and gather the little ones around to enjoy this sweet treat.
However, we don’t recommend you let children help you make maple taffy as the syrup will reach seriously high heat.
To get started, you’ll need to gather the following tools and one ingredient:
- A small saucepan
- A wooden spoon
- A candy thermometer
- Popsicle sticks
- A container for snow
- 100 percent pure maple syrup
To get started, pack some clean snow in a large container, and then smooth out the surface, so it’s flat. Alternatively, you can blend several ice cubes to make your own “snow,” and then pack them in a container.
Place approximately one cup of maple syrup in a small saucepan on medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. If you use two cups of maple syrup, you’ll need a medium-sized saucepan; for three cups or more, use a larger size. You don’t want the maple syrup to fill more than 1/3 of the pot.
Don’t leave the stove as maple syrup tends to bubble over. You’ll need to stir it often to regulate the temperature. Continue to boil until the candy thermometer reaches somewhere between 235 to 238 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take the pot off the heat and wait for the bubbles to subside. Once they do, carefully pour a few tablespoons of the taffy syrup on top of the snow or ice.
The sugar will harden quickly into firm pieces of taffy. About 10 seconds after you pour it on the snow, take a popsicle stick, and then pull the taffy up and roll it around the stick. If you leave the taffy on too long, it will be too hard and won’t roll.
Now, gather up the family and enjoy every irresistible lick. Bite with caution, though, as maple taffy will definitely get caught in your teeth.