Maple cream — everything it touches becomes heavenly.
Maple cream is one of my favorite maple products we make on our homestead. But right up front, I think we need to talk about what we want to call this yumminess. A quick online search indicates that a lot of people call this wonderful, creamy sweetness “maple butter.” I have qualms with this moniker. Whenever I hear someone call it that I immediately think of apple butter. Apple butter was a prominent staple of my youth, and I never cared for it. So I never want to lump apple butter and glorious maple cream together in my brain. This thick but spreadable 100 percent pure all-maple wonder can be used on toast, crackers, pretzels, bagels, muffins, pancakes, waffles, doughnuts, shortbread cookies, or any ole thing your heart desires. While it sounds so very decadent, there is a huge bonus to maple cream over so many other things you might be tempted to slather on your toast. Maple cream is an all-natural product. Even though it’s sugar, it contains important nutrients such as amino acids, proteins, organic acids, minerals (calcium and potassium being the most prevalent) and even trace levels of some vitamins. Crazy enough, it even contains antioxidants. Now that’s a lot better than the high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, or dextrose you’ll find in store-bought jellies or that peanut butter that supposedly choosy mothers choose.
From Sweet Maple
So, in my limited chemistry-minded way, I’ll explain how this creamy magic happens because it’s pretty fascinating, yet so simple at the same time. To make maple sugar, cream, or candies, you have to start with some supersaturated syrup. The exact temperature of the syrup, how you stir (or don’t stir) the syrup, and how you cool the syrup all have an impact on what you wind up with. All of these factors impact the size of the crystals that form in your concoction.
After filling every candy mold we own, we will smooth out our remaining hard candy on greased cookie trays to cool. We seem to always have already hardening candy before the spreading is even done.
As you heat it to make sugar or cream, the syrup becomes viscous and, if left alone, will start to solidify (think hard candy) before crystals can form and grow. On the other hand, if that hot, supersaturated syrup is stirred while it’s cooling, it will form crystals. I’m told that the mechanical motion of the spoon causes microscopic crystal nuclei to form (or something like that). Basically, if you keep stirring, you form crystals, mix those tiny crystals throughout the thickened syrup, and cause them to grow in size and increase in number. Depending on what you want to make, you’ll need different sizes of crystals. Thankfully other folks have figured out all the details. So right here, with zero knowledge of the chemistry of maple syrup, I can break it all down for you and have you making the best maple cream and candies ever. You will find a slight range of temperatures works okay for most of these confections, but I’m listing the details that have proven to work the best for me. Also, the temperatures listed are assuming you’re at a standard altitude and the boiling point of water where you are is at 212°F. I should also warn you — it’s kind of obvious, but still — that to make any of these glorious confections, you will be working with some really hot syrup, folks, so do use caution.
Even when maple products turn out not so pretty, like these rejected pieces of soft and hard candy, they are always oh-so yummy.
Make some sugar on snow!
Boil a little syrup to 235 degrees Fahrenheit then immediately drizzle it on packed snow. It hardens on contact. That’s seriously all there is to making this yumminess.
Also from Sweet Maple:
- Maple Butter Dog Bones
- Maple Syrup: Relish the Real
- What do You Need to Know When You’re Buying Your Syrup?
Reprinted with permission from Sweet Maple: Backyard Sugarmaking from Tap to Table by Michelle Visser and published by Lyons Press, 2019.