Making Maple Confections

Before attempting to make any confection you should always find out what temperature water is boiling at.

We have all learned in school the water boils at 100°C or 212°F, but this is not necessarily true. Depending on your elevation and the barometric pressure at the time of boiling (this can change from morning to afternoon always check just before you start), water may boil much higher or lower and this can result in you being out of range of your target temperature when you are making your confection. (This is a good rule of thumb when making any confection not just maple.)

When making sugar, candy or maple butter with maple syrup it is all about the size of the  sugar crystal and this is determined by the temperature you boil  it to so this is why it is critical that you know your boiling point of water.

If we use maple butter as an example we have a 2 degree Celsius window to get it right, 10°C-11°C above boiling, so if you are boiling water at 97°C and you boil your maple syrup to 110°C you will be actually boiling 13°C above boiling which is 3 degrees above your target of 10°C  above boiling or 110°C and your maple butter won't work.


Soft Maple Sugar Candy

Light maple syrup makes the most desirable candies, in terms of colour, taste and texture. One litre of syrup makes approximately 60 1/3-ounce maple leaf candies. Heat desired amount of syrup to 32° to 34° F (18°-19°) above the boiling point of water. Cool the pan of cooked syrup to 200°-210° F. but not below 160° F (71°C.). Cooling to lower temperatures results in premature stiffening of the batch and it will be impossible to spread in the candy moulds. The thick syrup is then stirred manually or mechanically until it starts to lighten in colour, thicken and has an opaque appearance. Stirring only takes a few minutes- less than five. Stirring too long will result in the candy hardening in the pan, so it is best to start pouring early if in doubt.

Pour or pack into the candy moulds. Make sure the moulds are heat resistant-rubber or metal are best. Use a wide putty knife or spatula to spread the thickened syrup into the moulds. The individual pieces can be removed in 20-30 minutes. The fresh maple candies can be kept in cool dry conditions for a few months. Crystal coating (dipping the cooled, dried maple sugar candies in high density syrup {70.5°-72.5° Brix} for a few hours) prevents the candy from drying out and extends the life of the candy.


Hard Candies and Lollipops

Extra light or light maple syrup works the best. Add 10% glucose. Glucose can be purchased from a maple syrup supply company. White corn syrup may also be used. One litre of syrup plus glucose makes approximately 80 hard candies or lollipops.

Boil the mixture until it reaches 300oF. A stainless steel pitcher with a spout works great as it is easy to pour into the moulds later. In the last few minutes of cooking, reduce the heat and gently simmer the thickened syrup until it reaches the desired temperature. This will prevent the mixture from burning in the pot. Remove from heat and let the syrup settle. Place the pot in ice water for 30-40 seconds then let sit in hot water for 1 minute.

Pour the hot syrup into prepared moulds that have been treated with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. If making lollipops, ensure the sticks are in place before pouring. The moulds must be made of materials that will withstand high temperatures. After the candies cool completely to room temperature, they will easily pop out of the mounds. Wrap immediately to prevent them from getting sticky. Can be refrigerated or frozen for longer term storage.


Maple Butter

Maple butter (or maple cream) is made from 100% pure maple syrup – nothing is added. Like maple sugar, it is best made with extra-light or light maple syrup. The lightest coloured syrup will typically produce the lightest and smoothest maple butter.

Batches can be made with as little as 2L of maple syrup but a 5L batch (in a 10L stainless steel pot) works well and produces approximately 15 x 330 gram jars of maple butter. Before the syrup comes to a boil, add a small amount of approved defoamer to keep it from boiling over and to allow for a very rapid boil. The syrup is then boiled until it reaches approximately 11°C-13°C (21°F to 24°F) above the boiling temperature of water. Remove the pot from heat and place the pot in a cold water bath. Cover the pot with a cloth to keep out foreign particles. Take great care not to bump, move or vibrate the pot while it is cooling or the syrup will start to crystalize. Once the syrup has cooled to approximately 10°C (50°F) it can be removed from the water bath. Some producers will allow the syrup to then warm back up to room temperature (it makes stirring easier) while others will begin stirring right away.

A very stout wooden spoon should be used to stir the maple butter as the concentrated syrup is very thick and difficult to stir. A few tablespoons of maple butter from a previous batch will “seed” the batch and speed up the stirring. Stirring by hand can take between 20 and 40 minutes. Paddle type or gear pump maple butter machines can produce a batch in as little as 10 minutes. The maple butter is ready to be put in containers when the surface loses its glossy shine and the maple butter starts to look a light, creamy brown and flows readily off the wooden spoon.


Maple Taffy on Snow

Syrup is heated to 22°-27°F. above the boiling point of water depending on individual preference on the stiffness of the product. Do not stir. If using as taffy on the snow, drizzle immediately onto snow or crushed ice. If the taffy is to be packaged, allow to cool for a few minutes without disturbance and then pour directly into containers. A light misting of water will eliminate bubbles on the surface. Put in the freezer immediately to cool without agitating to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Can be thawed and eaten with a spoon or reheated in the microwave and poured on snow or crushed ice. The taffy will last indefinitely when frozen.


Granulated Maple Sugar

Granulated maple sugar can be made from any colour class of maple syrup however, lighter syrup makes a “drier” finished product. Many producers will mix syrup with other maple product “seconds” such as oxidized maple sugar leaves and maple butter that has separated. These products are still suitable for human consumption but are no longer suitable for retail display and can be recycled into granulated maple sugar.

Boil the syrup to approximately 25°C-28°C (45°F-50°F) above the boiling point of water, rimming the pot with a little butter or margarine to prevent it from boiling over. Remove from heat and stir constantly for 10-15 minutes with a stout wooden spoon. It is recommended that the pot be placed in a sink while stirring as the syrup can froth up rather violently as it crystalizes and releases heat as steam. As the syrup crystalizes it will become more and more solid. After the sugar has completely crystalized and does not appear moist it can be left to cool to room temperature but should be stirred occasionally to prevent clumping. If the sugar does not appear to be drying properly, spread it on a cookie sheet and place in the oven at 200°F for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to remove the excess moisture.

Once cool, the sugar can be sifted to separate the fine sugar from the larger chunks. The chunks can either be broken up or crushed in a blender or they can be sold as-is. Granulated maple sugar absorbs moisture so it should be stored in airtight containers in a cool dry location.