It’s maple syrup season, and everyone’s talking about it. Cars were packed with kiddies heading out on March Break sugar shack excursions. Bloggers are writing up syrup tastings and maple-themed events around the Greenbelt. Even my friends from south of the border jealously pine for some of our liquid gold, dark sugary streams that flow out of maple trees, year after year, right on time. It’s a uniquely sweet treat, pretty much leading the pack of “things that define Canada”. For me, the best part of maple syrup is its god-like omnipresence - If you live in Southern Ontario, it’s everywhere.
Ah, the maple tree, a symbol so Canadian we decided to stamp it onto our flag. Native Canadians have been tapping maple sap for hundreds of years, developing a technique of boiling the sap to evaporate the water and concentrate the sugar. European settlers later discovered this sweet treat, and maple sugar became the first sugar product produced in eastern North America. Now the maple industry is worth approximately $15,000,000 annually to the Ontario economy, probably because my family buys it by the gallon whenever we can get our hands on it.
I jumped on the maple syrup bandwagon with a little experiment in fudge making. I’ve tried making fudge before, so I know that it can be a bit temperamental. Cook too long? Sugar burns. Stir too much? Fudge thickens too quickly. It might take a few tries, but the finished product is pure heavenly decadence. The time is ripe to hit up a sugar shack near you for some festive maple syrup events! Check out this nifty site for some ideas on where to look for a sweet weekend adventure.
Maple Walnut Fudge
2 cups sugar (I opted for 1 cup white, 1 cup brown)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. corn syrup
1. In a large pot, mix sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, and evaporated milk
2. Turn stove to medium heat, and mix the ingredients until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil
3. When the sugar mixture begins to boil, do NOT mix the ingredients. Things will start to bubble and froth, but trust me - leave them be.
4. If you have a candy thermometer (You should! They’re fantastic), you’re aiming for the boiling sugar mixture to reach 240 degrees farenheit.
* TIP: Patience is in fact a virtue. As tempting as it may be to turn up the temperature and speed up the cooking process, please don’t. I did. My mixture burned. My suggestion is to walk away, letting your mixture boil, and to come back and check on the temperature every 5-10 minutes. If you don’t own a candy thermometer, you’re looking for the “soft-ball stage”, which is the point where if you drop a bit of the mixture in cold water and it forms a ball on its own.
5. When your mixture reaches the temperature after about 15-20 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Drop in your butter, and stir gently until the butter dissolves.
6. Leave the pot to sit and cool. This might take a while, so I advise you to kick back and relax. Your fudge should cool to approximately 110 degrees farenheit (about 30 minutes). If you’re really impatient, you can pop it into the fridge to speed up the cooling process.
7. Once the fudge has cooled, drop your walnuts in. Now, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously. You’re sure to get a great workout at this stage, as the fudge hardens and each stir becomes an uphill battle.
* TIP: This is one of the most important stages in the fudge-making process. If you stir too much (As I did), the fudge solidifies rapidly, and you’ll have a difficult time transferring it to the pan. If you stir too little, you might not get the right consistency. Practice makes perfect!
8. Pour your fudge into a non-stick or buttered pan. At this point, the fudge should cool very quickly, and solidify into form all by itself! There is no need to refrigerate the fudge, unless you plan on keeping it for a few days.