When we got back from our trip to Vermont, Jolian suggested I read First Person Rural. It’s a book of essays on Vermont life by New Yorker turned Vermont farmer and Dartmouth professor, Noel Perrin. The subjects range from fence posts to raising sheep to churning butter, but the chapter that really caught my attention was the one describing how to make maple candy. We’d eaten some on our trip, so the flavor was fresh in my memory and I loved the idea of making my own. They’re seriously good. They have an intense maple flavor and practically melt in your mouth. I thought they might make a fun alternative to traditional Valentine’s candy this year.
These candies are so simple to make. They only have one ingredient – maple syrup. Any grade will do. Feel free to use the cheapest you can find, just make sure it’s 100% pure maple syrup and not a blend. The only special equipment you need to purchase is a candy mold. I found mine at my local baking/cooking supply store.
Pour the maple syrup in a stainless steel pot so it’s 1/2 inch deep. Bring the syrup to a boil and then turn the heat way down (be careful – it boils over quickly) and cook on low for 10-15 minutes (the book says 10, but it took me 15). Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. To know when it’s ready, the book says to “lift your wooden spoon and when the drops are coming off individually let one fall into a glass of cold water. If the sugar is ready, the drop will instantly form a compact flattened ball in the bottom of the glass. If it isn’t ready, the drop will spread out in sort of little nebula.” When ready, remove the pot from the heat and start stirring. Get ready for your arm to burn. Keep stirring and slowly the syrup will lighten and thicken until it eventually sets. It starts out looking like syrup, then turns into a caramel-like consistency, then finally resembles peanut butter (see below). To speed this process along you can place the pot in a large bowl of ice water for the first minute of stirring. Your forearm will thank you.
Once the sugar has set, return your pot to the stove over medium heat. The sugar will re-liquefy in a minute. Continue heating the sugar for another 30 seconds, stirring continuously. Now it’s time to fill your mold. At this point I transferred the candy to a measuring cup with a spout to make it easier to pour into the mold, but do whatever works for you.
Let the candies harden in the mold for about 15 minutes. When ready, remove them from the mold and let them sit on a plate to finish cooling. Make sure you eat one at this point when it’s still a little warm. Delicious. That’s it. They’re done!