Maple syrup, maple cream, maple candy and maple sugar, made from our very own red and sugar maple trees. We’ve proven once and for all that you can make cream, candy and sugar from any palatable grade of maple!
Search the internet for how to make maple cream, candy and sugar and you will get plenty of hits. But many of these recipes call for starting with a light grade of syrup. If your hobby maple syrup operation is anything like ours, and you mix the sap of your red or silver maples with your sugar maple sap, you aren’t ever going to make a light syrup. That’s because the sap of these other maple trees doesn’t contain as much sugar as the sap of the sugar maple. It therefore needs to be cooked for longer to reach the density of syrup. More cooking means more caramelization which means darker syrup.
Does that mean that you can’t take your dark, homemade syrup and turn it into maple cream (out-of-this-world on a grilled muffin), maple candy (instant, pop-in-the-mouth happiness) or maple sugar (can be used 1:1 for white sugar in baking)? We set out to find the answer to that question, and it is a resounding NO! You can totally make cream, candy and sugar from your homemade syrup, no matter what it looks like, as long as you enjoy the taste.
In fact, we created all three of these maple specialties in under two hours using the very darkest gallon of syrup we made this year. (Which is saying something.) And it all turned out wonderful. Here’s how!
As you already know, maple syrup boils at 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water. Generally speaking, this means 219 degrees Fahrenheit, but, because the boiling point of water varies with elevation and barometric pressure, the first step in making any maple product is calibrating your thermometer. If your thermometer reads 212 degrees in a pot of boiling water, great! For the rest of us, there is the power of math. (Incidentally, if you have the kind of maple syrup finishing thermometer that we carry, you don’t have to think about any of this. The face of the thermometer has calibration instructions and is marked at the boiling points of syrup, cream, candy and sugar already. But I digress.)
In addition to maple syrup and a deep pot (not pictured), to make maple cream, candy and sugar in one go, you need a candy thermometer (or maple syrup finishing thermometer), a shallow pan, parchment paper, vegetable oil, a bowl of ice, an empty bowl or two, and a wooden spoon. If attempting to make all three in swift succession, you will need a helper, a standing mixer, or more than two arms.
After we calibrated our thermometer, we finished our last batch of sweetened sap into about a gallon of syrup, leaving it right in the stock pot on the stove. We then gathered the rest of what we would need: a shallow pan, parchment paper, vegetable oil, a bowl of ice, an empty bowl or two, and a wooden spoon.
We heated our syrup back to boiling on medium heat and watched, without stirring, while the temperature approached 235 degrees Fahrenheit (or 23 degrees above the boiling point of water). When the bubbles threatened to spill over the side of the pot, we smeared a little vegetable oil on the back of a wooden spoon and “pet” the bubbles with it to calm them down. Even though the process of obtaining the right temperature took 35 minutes, we watched it closely the whole time. Hell hath no fury like burned maple on an appliance.
When the syrup reached 235 degrees, we poured about a third of it off into a small bowl and put it on ice until it chilled to 100 degrees. (Because our maple syrup finishing thermometer lacks numbers, we just had to wing it. Mom’s winging-it method worked just fine: if you can put your pinky in it for 3 seconds and stand it, you are just north of 100 degrees. If it hurts, keep waiting.) The cooling process took 30 minutes.
When cooled to 100 degrees, we stirred slowly until it began lightening in color and became the consistency of peanut butter (think Skippy, not freshly-ground at the food coop). This took a full 30 minutes (in order to proceed quickly to candy and sugar, we let the standing mixer do the stirring, here). We then poured the cream into jars and affixed lids. Maple cream will store in a refrigerator for at least 6 months. With about one third of a gallon of maple syrup, we made a pint of maple cream.
Maple cream, approaching peanut-butter-like consistency as it cools.
While the maple cream was setting up in the standing mixer, we put the stock pot back to boil on medium/high heat. We noticed that the batch was a bit shallow in relation to our thermometer, so we tipped the pot toward the side where the thermometer was clipped in place every once in a while to make sure the stem was deep enough to give us an accurate read. But we did not stir the batch while it heated to the candy stage: 246 degrees Fahrenheit (or 34 degrees above the boiling point of water).
It only took 5 minutes to progress to 246 degrees, just enough time for us to have lightly oiled a piece of parchment paper and used it to line a 10″ metal bread pan. Getting the corners just right was probably the trickiest thing about making the candy.
When the batch reached 246 degrees, we poured half of what was left in the pot into a small bowl and let it cool for 5 minutes. We then stirred it with a wooden spoon until it started looking lighter and thicker. This took another 5 minutes. We then poured it into the lined bread pan, did our best to make it flow evenly throughout, and set it on the counter to cool completely. This took at least an hour.
When cooled to room temperature, we lifted the candy out of the bread pan by the parchment paper, set on a cutting board, and cut into cubes. From about a third of a gallon of syrup, we made about 1 lb. 3 oz. of maple candy.
Lightly oiled parchment paper in a metal bread pan makes for a great maple candy mold. Crease the corners carefully, and you’re good to go.
We heated what remained in our stock pot, again without stirring, until it reached the range of 257 degrees to 262 degrees Fahrenheit (or 45 to 50 degrees above the boiling point of water).
When the batch reached temperature, we pulled the pot from the heat and immediately began to stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, alternating stirring hands to alleviate the fatigue. After about 5 minutes, the character of what we were stirring began to change, from pancake batter to cookie dough, to something that was even harder to stir quickly (cookie dough with too much flour?). Finally, the sugars began to crystalize into sugar. It was very exiting!
We continued stirring for another 15 minutes or so, squishing any balls that formed against the side of the pot with the back of the spoon, as the batch gradually became beautiful, light, fine maple sugar!
By this time, the sugar was cool enough to handle, so we sifted it and set aside the lumps to be processed in the food processer and resifted (or eaten as “maple nibs” – a thing we just invented, right there). With about a third of a gallon of maple syrup, we made 1 lb. 10 oz. of maple sugar.
Separating the maple sugar from the nibs!
Long Story Short
We’re actually a bit amazed at how easy this was. It is definitely the case that the hard part is making the syrup in the first place!
Here are all the directions in short form.
- boil syrup to 235 degrees Fahrenheit (or boiling point of water plus 23)
- do not stir
- cool to 100 degrees (30+ min.)
- stir slowly until lighter in color and the consistency of peanut butter (30+ min.)
- store in refrigerator
Homemade maple cream, candy and sugar. Incredibly easy. Incredibly tasty. And will impress your friends and family!
- boil syrup to 246 degrees Fahrenheit (or boiling point of water plus 34)
- do not stir
- cool for 5 minutes
- stir until lighter and thicker (5 minutes)
- pour into shallow pan lined with lightly oiled parchment paper
- cool to room temperature before cutting into cubes
- store sealed at room temperature
- boil syrup to 257-262 degrees Fahrenheit (or boiling point of water plus 45-50)
- do not stir
- take off the heat and stir vigorously until crystals form (20 minutes)
- sift and grind maple nibs in food processor if desired
- store sealed at room temperature