I grew up in the beautiful back woods of Rhode Island. Our retired neighbors, the Pecks, lived on a hundred acres next door. Mr. and Mrs. Peck were an endless source of entertainment, wonder and companionship for me as a child. He, a retired engineer with striped engineer’s hat, shock of white hair and mustache. And she, with two long white braids in keeping with her Cherokee heritage. Of great shock and interest to me, she skinny-dipped at 5:30 a.m. each morning to the island in their pond. She invited me once. (NO THANK YOU, Mrs. Peck!!!) But always unusual conversation, kindness and interesting observations in their home. Mrs. Peck was often taking a pan of cookies out of the oven as I’d arrive for an impromptu visit. She made wonderful peanut butter cookies, always welcomed me in. She also taught me how to knit when I was only six.
Mr. Peck designed their amazing three story contemporary home, complete with a working dumb waiter he let us kids ride up and down. There was a metal spiral central staircase connecting all three floors, a human anti-gravity machine (hint: hang by your ankles), and double decker porches overlooking the enormous man made pond he designed and built by damming the wetlands.
Photo courtesy of Clarke Ryder
The wooded island in the middle of the pond housed a gazebo. Rowing out solo for a picnic and afternoon island explore was always an exciting adventure.
Photo courtesy of Clarke Ryder
A small scale beautiful wooden covered bridge (above) led to a cabin on the far side of the pond, just out of view in the picture. A zip-line we called “the trolley”, complete with antique metal tractor seat was mounted between two tall pines. Mr. Peck often walked the periphery of the pond, tossing in breadcrumbs along the way. Schools of fish swam along, following behind Mr. Peck, the Pied Piper. The pond froze hard and thick in winter, and we skated there often.
When the sap ran in early spring, I’d often ride the wooded trails with Mr. Peck to collect it. I’d hear his tractor motor back in the back woods and hunt ’til I found him. He drove the tractor, hauling a trailer behind with big clean garbage pails for collecting the sap. I’d hop on and off the back, dumping maple sap from the collection buckets into the gigantic pails. After the run, we’d head to the sugar house by the pond where Mr. Peck would crank up the stove to boil sap for syrup making. It took forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Hot and steamy inside the sugar house, if you looked up, you couldn’t miss the suspended shell from a two hundred pound snapping turtle. Mr. Peck himself shot it on the island. (No one wants to be chomped by a two hundred pound snapper, least of all his skinny-dipping wife!) In short, Mr. Peck was a Yankee Renaissance man.
Every so often the Pecks would invite our whole family over to enjoy Maple Sugar on Snow. It was a neighborly, family thing to do. And I remember thoroughly enjoying the camaraderie, feeling especially important that I’d made such a valuable contribution in helping to collect the sap.
The recipe I’m sharing today is different than the one we enjoyed with the Pecks. Their Maple Sugar on Snow, involved boiling maple syrup to a very high temperature, then pouring over fresh snow. The snow cooled the boiling syrup quickly, making taffy like strands of maple delight.
This past week a friend kindly shared her recipe for Maple Taffy on Snow, an old French recipe from her grandparents. Maple Taffy on Snow has maple syrup, plus a few more magical ingredients. Like brown sugar, butter and vanilla. What’s not to love? With the newly fallen New England snow (and more forecasted!), now’s a great opportunity to enjoy this fun, old-fashioned family tradition with yours. A great across-the-generations activity, making Maple Taffy on Snow is perfect after sledding, skating and snow angels.
Gently boil the four ingredient syrup mixture for 5 minutes, stirring.
Drizzle over several pans of fresh, clean snow.
The taffy will harden slightly, looking like this.
Now it’s time to grab some forks and dig in!
There were lots of volunteers to help.
And not a complaint. (!)
Maple Taffy on Snow
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Boil all ingredients slowly, at a low boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Fill several large shallow pans with fresh, clean snow.
- (9 X 13" or roasting pan works well)
- Drizzle liquid taffy mixture onto the snow.
- If it stays on the top and slightly hardens, it's ready.
- If it's too hard and sticky in your teeth, it's overcooked. 🙁
- Eat immediately, right out of the pan with a fork.
- Best shared!
We made quick work of two pans of delicious Maple Taffy On Snow, a nice lunch appetizer (!) yesterday. Hope you’ll try this recipe. Do you have any fun maple syrup, Maple Sugar on Snow or Taffy on Snow memories? Please share them today!
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