photo courtesy of thekitchn.com
I was OBSESSED with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid (you know, from Little House on the Prarie?). I was even her for Halloween one year, so I loved making maple-syrup taffy with my grandmother, just like Laura did in her book, Little House in the Big Woods. Here’s an easy recipe from Country Living.
1. Gather up some clean, fresh snow and pack it into a pie plate or roasting pan. Pack it down and set it down outside or in the freezer so it stays cold.
2. Pour a half cup of real maple syrup into a small saucepan, ideally a saucepan with a pouring lip. We like the darker flavor of Grade B maple syrup!
3. Bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat, and put a candy thermometer in.
4. When the syrup reaches 235°F (the soft-ball stage) take it off the heat and immediately drizzle it over the packed snow in the pan. Let the syrup cool for just a minute or two, then pick it up with your fingers and eat! (Watch your teeth!)
This is a fun post-dinner treat for wintertime, and so easy. It would be a fun and instantly gratifying way to teach little ones about candy-making and sugar chemistry, too, if you’re so inclined. We also think the hot syrup probably kills any icky bacteria in the snow on contact, so we’re not too worried about eating scary snow. (Just watch out for the yellow stuff. Ick.)
The taffy itself tastes just like maple syrup, of course, with a deliciously chewy texture that melts in your mouth. It’s also delightfully fleeting; eat it all while it’s cold, or the water will dissolve it back into plain maple syrup.
I’ve heard that you can do the same thing with honey, and even seen some people say they just pour the syrup or honey straight from the jar onto the snow to create a hard candy rather than a soft taffy. Either way, it’s a fun and fairly quick project for someone with memory loss. You might find that the person with memory loss did it as a child (my grandmother did), which is great way to start some reminiscing. OBviously, be careful if you do decide to boil the syrup, but those in the middle stages can certainly help gather the snow, stir the syrup, and taste the results! Those in the early stages would probably only need supervision to make sure the syrup doesn’t get too hot (it’s easy to get distracted and hard to read the tiny numbers on a candy thermometer.)