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Celebrate the Season: All Things Maple

snow-taffy

By Mary Heyl

It’s the official state tree for a reason: the Sugar Maple thrives in New York, one of very few places in the world where these trees can grow. The Native Americans were the first ones to discover this sweet resource and taught early settlers how to tap Sugar Maple trees for their sap. Today, New York has the largest population of tap-able maple trees in the country and more than 2,000 maple sugar-makers statewide.

You can experience this fascinating and delicious industry yourself during New York’s two Maple Weekend events taking place this weekend, March 17-18, and next weekend, March 24 and 25. Take a tour and sample some sweet treats at one of the many local sugar houses, and enjoy making these sweet treats with your fresh supply of local maple syrup!

Treat your family, friends or coworkers to a delicious treat: maple cookies! Craig Gund’s recipe showcases that rich, golden maple flavor in a simple recipe that can easily be doubled. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets with vegetable oil or cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup of softened butter and 1 cup of packed brown sugar. Add 1 egg, 1 cup of real maple syrup and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract; mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together 4 cups of all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Stir into the syrup mixture until well blended. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and let cool on a wire rack. Drizzle with a tasty glaze, if you like. Mix together 1 cup of powdered sugar, a few drops of maple extract (to taste) and a tablespoon of milk or more, to reach desired consistency. Drizzle the glaze on the cooled cookies and enjoy (makes about 5 dozen cookies).

Easter is just two weeks away! Be sure to get some maple syrup this weekend to make your Maple-Peach Glazed ham for Easter dinner. This glaze recipe will cover a 7 to 9 pound cooked ham. Cover and bake your ham in a 325 degree oven in a shallow roasting pan. In a small saucepan, mix 2 cups of peach preserves or orange marmalade, ½ cup of real maple syrup, 1/3 cup of orange juice and, for an optional kick, 2 tablespoons of ground ancho chili pepper until well blended. Remove ¾ cup of the mixture for the glaze.

After the ham has been cooking for about 2 hours, remove it from the oven and brush with some of the glaze. Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes longer, brushing occasionally with the remaining glaze. Bring the remaining preserve mixture in the saucepan to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Serve as a sauce with the ham.

Just like Laura in Little House on the Prairie, you too can have fun making maple syrup snow candy right in your own backyard! Also known as snow taffy, this treat is easy and fun, but does require some adult supervision, as it involves the stove! To get started, find an area of clean snow outside and pack down this area so that it is firm enough to hold the hot syrup.

Next, heat 1 cup of 100% pure maple syrup in a small pot until boiling. Once it is boiling, the syrup will start to bubble; keep boiling and check with a candy thermometer until it reaches the “soft ball” stage (235 to 240 degrees). Remove the pot from the heat and head outside! Pour the syrup in lines on the snow. Press a popsicle stick into the syrup and as the syrup is cooling, roll it around the stick to make maple syrup candy pops! You can also pour small puddles of syrup on the snow to make individual pieces of this delicious candy.

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