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Maple sugar candy, crystalline in nature, has a distinct flavor and is made by taking the sap from the maple tree and boiling off the excess water to make a type of maple syrup. It is then poured into molds.
Maple syrup can also be processed into a wide variety of candy or confections including granulated or molded maple sugar, molded soft-sugar candy, maple cream, maple fondant, and "Jack Wax" or "Maple on Snow." These confections are easy to make, delicious to eat, and make excellent gifts.
The process of making maple confections is simple - heat maple syrup to the desired temperature and then cool it with or without stirring. Making maple confections requires little special equipment. A kitchen stove will provide a steady, easily-controlled heat source. A variety of spoons, ladles, and pans are necessary, as is a candy or other thermometer with a temperature range of 200 to 300oF. For some confections, a flat pan will be needed large enough for stirring or to function as a water/ice bath for rapidly cooling the heated pan of syrup. Rubber candy molds also will be required if candy or molded sugar is made.
When heating the maple syrup, experiment to achieve the right combination of pan depth, depth of syrup, and heat to avoid burning the syrup or foaming over. Begin with moderate heat and no more than one and one-half inches of syrup in an eight-inch deep pan. If foaming becomes excessive, it can be reduced using a drop of commercial defoamer or vegetable based oil.
Maple Sugar (Granulated or Molded): Make granulated maple sugar by heating maple syrup to a temperature 40 to 45oF above the boiling temperature of pure water (212 degrees F at sea level), immediately transferring the syrup to a flat pan, stirring until granulation is achieved and all apparent moisture is gone. At this point, the syrup may be sieved through a course screen (e.g., 1/8-inch hardware screen) so it becomes uniform. Making granulated maple sugar can be difficult when the humidity is high.
Make molded hard maple sugar by heating maple syrup to a temperature 40 to 45oF above the boiling temperature of pure water (212 degrees F at sea level), immediately transferring the syrup to a flat pan, stirring it until crystals form, and then packing it into molds (with a spoon, spatula, or putty knife) to harden. Note that this is not maple candy, but a molded form of sugar that is quite hard.
"Crunchy" Hard Maple Sugar: A relatively hard, crunchy, molded maple sugar candy is made by heating maple syrup to a temperature 28 to 30oF above the boiling temperature of pure water (212 degrees F at sea level), allowing it to cool to about 150oF, stirring it to develop a plastic consistency containing relatively large crystals, and pouring or packing it into molds.
Molded Soft Sugar Candy: This is the relatively soft maple sugar candy often seen molded in a variety of shapes such as maple leaves. Make soft sugar candy by heating maple syrup to a temperature of approximately 32-34oF above the boiling temperature of pure water (212 degrees F at sea level), pouring the syrup into a flat pan or trough and allowing it to cool undisturbed to at least 200oF but not less than 160oF, stirring until the syrup is soft and plastic, and then pouring or packing it into molds. Molded candies commonly set up in 10 to 30 minutes. Candies formed by pouring rather than packing will have an attractive glazed surface.
Maple Spread (Cream or Butter): Maple spread is a smooth, semisolid, creamy-maple spread that is a delicious topping for toast, muffins, plain donuts, or similar products. In many areas, maple spread is referred to as maple cream. Most candy makers reserve the term maple cream for the nougat product described below. Maple spread is made by heating the syrup to the prescribed temperature, cooling it rapidly, and then stirring to produce a product with very small, almost undetectable crystals.
Not all syrup is suitable for making maple spread. Almost all the sugar in maple sap is sucrose, but during processing to maple syrup some sucrose is converted to invert sugar. Syrup containing more than four percent invert sugar is unsuited for making maple spread. There are tests to determine the amount of invert sugar in maple syrup, but they are complicated. As a rule, light colored syrup (US Grade A Light Amber) contains small amounts of invert sugar and can be successfully creamed or made into smooth nougat. Darker syrup is more likely to contain higher quantities of invert sugar, though some contain amounts low enough to be successfully creamed. Without testing for invert sugars, it is best to stick to the light syrups for creaming and nougat making.
Make maple spread by heating maple syrup to a temperature 22 to 24oF above the boiling temperature of pure water (212 degrees F at sea level), cooling the syrup rapidly in a water or ice bath to room temperature (at least 70 and preferably 50oF), and then stirring the chilled syrup at room temperature until crystallization is complete. When stirred, the cooled syrup first becomes more fluid (less stiff), and then stiffens and shows a tendency to "set-up." At this point it loses its shiny appearance and develops a dull or flat look. The crystallization process is then complete and the spread can be transferred to an appropriate container. Maple spread is best stored at low temperatures, ideally in a refrigerator or freezer.
Maple Fondant or Nougat (Ohio Maple Cream): Maple fondant or nougat is a "fudge-like" maple product that is often described as the candy form of maple spread. Good maple fondant requires the same low invert sugar content as maple spread. It is made in the same manner as maple cream except that the syrup is heated to a higher temperature.
Make maple fondant by heating maple syrup to a temperature 27oF above the boiling point of pure water (212 degrees F at sea level), cooling the syrup rapidly in a water or ice bath to room temperature (at least 70 and preferably 50oF), and then stirring the chilled syrup at room temperature until it sets to a soft solid. Maple fondant can be packed into molds, formed into a small "cake," or dropped in small pieces onto a marble surface, waxed paper, or a metal sheet.
"Jack Wax" or "Maple on Snow": is a maple product produced by pouring hot maple syrup over snow or crushed or cracked ice. It is most commonly eaten quickly, rather than stored for future use. Make "Jack Wax" or "Maple on Snow" by heating maple syrup to a temperature 18 to 40oF above the boiling temperature of pure water (212 degrees F at sea level) and immediately pouring the heated syrup over snow or cracked or crushed ice. The nature of the candy produced depends on the temperature attained. At the lower end of the temperature range, the "Jack Wax" will be taffy-like, and chewy; at the upper end of the temperature range it will be much harder, and more glass-like.
Information from http://ohioline.osu.edu/for-fact/pdf/0046.pdf