I was searching for another blog post topic when I got a message from my mother saying that she had found a huge, unopened bottle of maple syrup at the cabin and when I came up to join them for the long thanksgiving weekend, I should try to make maple sugar candy. I found this recipe and read the reviews and comments (my usual method before choosing whether or not to follow a recipe). It seemed like it would be easy enough, so I packed up the candy thermometer and a good cooking pot. Saturday night my mom pointed out that I still hadn't attempted to make the candy. I poured a good amount of maple syrup in the pot, but a small enough amount that I thought wouldn't boil over (maybe about 4 cups) with a few drops of oil (which according to comments could help keep the boiling down) and clipped the candy thermometer on the side. Slowly I stirred and watched the temperature rise.
What was initially a slow and boring case of waiting and watching a pot of maple syrup not boil soon became a maple-splosion. I was incorrect in thinking that the amount I had chosen was small enough to prevent a boil-over. I turned the heat down as soon as it looked like I was in the danger zone, but the damage was done and I ended up with hot syrup all over the stove. Cutting my losses, I moved to another burner and got the syrup to a near boil. I was more concerned about avoiding another mess than hitting the temperature mentioned in the recipe. I turned the heat off and mixed for over 10 minutes, but the syrup never changed color or consistency. I figured the problem was having not reached the right temperature. In order to try again and avoid the boil issues, I split what I had into two batches and started again with just half.
This time I aimed to hit the right temperature. This time it seemed like it was thickening, so I poured it into my pre-greased glass dish and waited. Even after letting it sit for a while, it was only about as thick as honey. Thicker than when it started, but not by much. I took the other half and tried for a third time. This time I made absolutely sure to hit and stay at the target temperature for a little while. After it cooled, I stirred and was relieved to finally see a significant change in color and consistency. I poured it into another container. I reboiled the batch that had reached the "honey" level the same way and poured it on top. The whole time the cabin was filling up with the amazing maple smell that made me think of Sunday morning pancake breakfasts.
After letting everything sit for a while, I was not left with creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, maple sugar candy like I had hoped. What I had poured into the bake tin had instead become something very akin to taffy. Thick, stretchy, tough but oddly pliable and very sticky. Of course it tastes good because all that's in it is maple syrup, but it was about as far from the texture I wanted as physically possible.
I am not 100% sure what went wrong. I searched through the recipe comments but no one else mentioned taffy-like results. My best guess as to why the candy failed was that I didn't stir it fast/hard/long enough. And the only reason that that is my guess is when I was furiously trying to scrape the last bits of syrup out of the pot to pour into the baking tin, the syrup on the spatula turned the color of maple syrup candy. A pale, creamy, opaque color.
These pictures here can best show the consistency of my results. On the left you can see that I pulled and bent a hunk out to taste. As tasty as it was, there was the slight concern of pulling out a tooth. When I came back a few minutes later, the candy had oozed back to fill in the hole I had made by pulling out a piece.
Honestly, I think this might be the kind of thing that my 'rents and I nibble at for a few days before the rest gets thrown away.
Maybe someday after I shake off this failure, I might try again. I do love maple sugar candy and it would be great to be able to make it at home. If anyone has made maple sugar candy successfully before, please share any advice or tips!