It’s sugar on snow time
Recipes include: Maple-Walnut Scones
Although you might not know it by looking outside, the calendar tells us that spring is almost here. Even with this mild winter, a few snow banks still line the side of the road and another storm is brewing. However, and thank goodness, the days are finally getting longer, warmer and sunnier.
This change in the weather heralds not just the tail end of winter but also the sugaring season. Each year, New Hampshire produces close to 90,000 gallons of maple syrup. Freezing nights and warm sunny days are perfect for a good sap harvest. Maple sugaring season lasts four to six weeks and most farmers tap their trees in late February.
Roughly 40 gallons of sap are needed to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup. It takes hours of boiling to transform the watery sap into the amber gold we enjoy on our pancakes. But a quick warning: all that boiling produces a lot of steam so unless you want to turn your house into a sauna or take down some wallpaper, don’t try to make syrup in your kitchen.
Sixty or more sugar houses from across the state will open their doors to the public on New Hampshire Maple Weekend. On March 24-25, 2018, you and your kids can visit a sugar house to watch and learn how maple syrup is made. Many sugar houses will also have fun and food for the whole family. Some farmers will offer horse-drawn sleigh rides, all-day pancake breakfasts, sugar on snow and more. There will be samples to taste as well as syrup and maple sugar candy to buy and bring home. You can find a list of participating sugar houses at nh.com.
You can also celebrate the season at home with a sugar on snow party (if you are lucky enough in your area to have snow!). You don’t need any fancy equipment to enjoy this old New England tradition. Gather a group of friends and plenty of kids. Buy some pure maple syrup from a local producer. Find an old pot, add some syrup and boil it outside on your barbecue grill.
Don’t stray far from the fire and keep a watchful eye on the pot of simmering syrup, checking it often until it reaches about 255 degrees. You can use a candy thermometer to determine the temperature.
As soon as it reaches temperature, be careful not to burn yourself while you gently drizzle the thick, hot syrup onto clean snow. Let the cold snow do its work and voilà, the thick syrup will quickly harden into sweet, chewy taffy. Party revelers just lift the taffy out of the snow and enjoy!
While the syrup simmers for sugar on snow, let everyone snack on Maple-Walnut Scones.
Younger kids can help you measure and form the dough balls. Older kids can work the food processor and rolling pin. Serve the scones with cold or warm milk with a shot of maple syrup and enjoy!
Makes 16 large or 32 small scones
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. quick-cooking oats
1 T. baking powder
2 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
12 T. very cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 c. roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line large baking sheet with a non-stick silicone mat or parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add walnuts and pulse once or twice to distribute them evenly throughout the mixture.
Whisk the sour cream, maple syrup and eggs together in small bowl. Add egg mixture to the food processor and pulse until dough starts to come together in a ball.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, pat together into a ball and knead gently until smooth, 8-12 turns.
Divide and form the dough into four balls. Pat or roll each portion into a 1-inch thick round. Cut each round into wedges; 4 for large scones and 8 for small. Place the scones about 1-inch apart on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with the cream and bake the scones until light brown, 15-18 minutes.
Susan Nye writes for several New England magazines and newspapers. She shares stories and recipes on her blog Around the Table at susannye.wordpress.com.