Winter Science: Mouthwatering Maple Syrup Snow Candy
- by KitchenPantryScientist
Remember this homemade snow candy from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic “Little House in the Big Woods?” You can make the same amazing maple treats using heat evaporation and quick cooling in the snow, or on crushed ice cubes.
Here’s how to make the candy, along with some candy-making science, straight from the pages of my new book, “Outdoor Science Lab for Kids,” which you can order from your favorite book retailer by clicking here.
-1 cup pure maple syrup
-fresh, clean snow
Safety Tips and Hints:
-Hot sugar syrup can cause burns. This experiment must be done with adult supervision.
-Allow candy to cool completely before tasting.
-Only use pure maple syrup for the best results.
Step 1: Go outside and scout out a spot with some clean snow several inches deep for making your candy. Alternately, collect and pack down a few inches of fresh snow in a large, flat container, like a casserole dish. (You can use crushed ice cubes if you don’t have snow.)
Step 2. Boil the maple syrup in saucepan, stirring constantly until it reaches around 235-240 degrees F (soft ball stage.)
Step 3. Remove the maple syrup from the heat and carefully pour it into a heat-resistant container with a spout, like a Pyrex measuring cup.
Step 4. Pour wiggly candy lines into the snow to freeze them into shape.
Step 5. When you’re done, remove the candy from the snow with a fork.
Step 6. Eat your candy right away, or let it warm up and wind it around sticks or skewers to make maple lollipops. Enjoy!
The Science Behind the Fun:
Maple syrup is made from watery tree sap boiled to evaporate most of the moisture it contains when it’s first tapped from a tree. Following evaporation, the syrup that remains is mostly made up of a sugar called sucrose, but it also contains smaller amounts of glucose and fructose.
Naturally, other organic compounds are also present in tree sap, giving syrup from different areas unique flavors. Syrup collected earlier in spring when it is cold tend to be light in color and have a mild flavor. As the days get warmer, microbes ferment some of the sugar in the syrup, making it darker and giving it a more robust taste.
In this experiment, you heat maple syrup, evaporating even more water. A super saturated solution forms, which holds more sugar molecules in the liquid than would be possible if you evaporated the water at room temperature.
When you pour the supersaturated sugar into the snow, it cools quickly, forming some sugar crystals to give the maple candy a soft, semi-solid consistency. Heating the syrup to a higher temperature will evaporate more water, resulting in even more crystal formation in the cooled syrup, making it harder to bite. If you carefully evaporate all of the water from maple syrup, you’ll be left with pure maple sugar crystals.
-Try collecting some syrup from your pan at several different temperatures and compare the resulting snow candy for texture, color and consistency.
-Can you do the same experiment with other sugar syrups, like molasses or corn syrup?
-Try to make maple sugar.
- by KitchenPantryScientist
A fun fact from NGKids :
“Bet You Didn’t Know: Twenty inches of snow equals one inch of water on average.”
Try it! Put some snow in a clear container and measure how deep it is. Then, allow it to melt. Measure how deep the remaining water is.
Now observe the melted water in a clear glass. How clear is it?
You can figure out whether your results were consistent with the NG Kids fact (10 inches of snow* should melt down to around 1/2 inch of water or 50cm of snow* should melt down to 2.5cm.)
A snow crystal is a single crystal of ice formed when the water in a cloud freezes around a microbe or piece of dust. Some have long, feathery branches, while others are small and plate-like, but they all have six sides. Snowflakes can contain several snow crystals, stuck together. Sometimes they form large clumps, creating huge, fluffy snowflakes.
The shape of snow crystals, the weather, and the surface where the snow lands all affect how much air is trapped when snow piles up. The amount of air contained in a layer of snow determines much space it takes up.
When snow melts, the snow crystals turn to water and the trapped air is released. That’s why the snow in your bucket is much deeper than the water from the melted snow.
*I’m guessing that NG Kids was referring to unpacked snow. Our kids packed the snow into containers and we go more water than we expected. Ask your kids why they think packed snow melts to give you more water than unpacked snow.