A sweet maple 'mistake': Maple cream is a treat before, during or after the sap run

Special to the Sunday News
February 23. 2018 7:50PM
Maple cream suffers an identity crisis. Some people call it maple butter. Shown here is a jar from Ben's Sugar Shack in Temple. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
Maple recipes
MAPLE PECAN BARS (from Mapletree Farm in Concord)

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons maple crystals
1/2 cup margarine
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 cup dark maple syrup (grade B or cooking syrup)
2/3 cup maple crystals
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon dark rum
1/4 teaspoon lite salt
2 tablespoons melted margarine

Mix flour and 2 tablespoons maple crystals.
Cut in 1/2 cup of margarine.
Pat into ungreased 11 x 7 pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Beat egg whites and cooking oil slightly; stir in remaining ingredients.
Pour over baked layer.
Bake at 350 for another 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool before cutting.
Makes 32 bars.

MAPLE SYRUP COOKIES (from the NH Maple Producers Association)

2/3 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup pure NH Maple Syrup
2 eggs
3 cups four
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/3 tsp salt

Cream shortening, syrup and eggs together until light and fluffy.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt to creamed mixture.
Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured board. Cut with cookie cutters.
Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.
Yields 60 cookies.

For maple cream, it’s hard to play second fiddle to maple syrup, especially when the vice president of the New Hampshire Maple Producers calls you a mistake.

“Like most good things, I think it was discovered by accident,” says Nick Kosko. “It’s what you get when you boil maple syrup for too long.”

Accident or not, Kosko, who owns Meadow View Sugarhouse in Union, loves making maple cream.

“It can be a great challenge to make,” he says. “If you cool it too slow or shake the pan you could make large sugar crystals that become crunchy, and that’s not what we’re looking for.”

“You need to take it above 219 degrees (Fahrenheit), which is roughly the temperature for maple syrup,” explains Kosko. “Heat it all the way to 236 degrees and then you need to cool it quickly to 70 degrees.”

Maple cream also suffers an identity crisis of sorts. Some people call it maple cream, while others call it maple butter. Chances are if you’re in a New Hampshire sugarhouse, it’s called maple cream.

Whatever it’s called, it is simple, silky and elegant. People use it on (or in) a variety of foods, such as English muffins, doughnuts, pretzels and other foods.
Brian Folsom of Folsom's Sugar House in Chester adds wood to the evaporator as he explains the maple sugaring process to Madison Allard, a student at John Stark Regional High School at the time of this 2016 photo. While syrup takes the spotlight during maple season, maple cream is a delicious byproduct created by heating syrup to a specific temperature and then quickly cooling and stirring it to create a paste with the texture of butter. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader file photo)

Deb Locke, who owns Sugarmomma’s in Northfield, likes to start her day with a kick.

“It’s the little ‘pick-me-up’ when my coffee isn’t doing it for me,” confesses Locke. “I like to add it to my coffee.”

Making maple cream is not just about heating and cooling. Dean Wilber of Mapletree Farm in East Concord says most New Hampshire producers will only go so far in sharing their secrets.

“Interesting that my Vermont maple producer friend helped give me pointers,” says Wilber. “There is a knack or technique to making good maple cream. It has taken me years to perfect that technique. There are no tricks — just experience.”

And there is no lack of experience at Mapletree Farm. Wilber has been making syrup for 43 years. In 1981, he planted 200 extra sweet maple tree “whips” from a Vermont Research lab. The trees matured and are now producing sap. He says his is the only planted maple farm in New Hampshire.

Brian and Sue Folsom of Folsom’s Sugar House in Candia also enjoy the challenges of making maple cream and have many awards to prove it.

“We use golden syrup because of its delicate taste to make the cream,” says Sue. “It’s heated to 234 degrees poured into a stainless bowl and chilled in cold water to 50 to 60 degrees.”

The Folsoms use a heavy-duty mixer to get the cream to the consistency of butter.

Some producers prefer to mix the cream by hand.

“To do it by hand you have to be one strong person” says Kosko. “Quickly stirring the syrup breaks down the sugar and stretches it, turning it eventually into a butter-like cream.”

Maple cream isn’t the only magical by-product of pure maple syrup. There’s also maple candy, taffy and hard candy.

Maple candy — the kind that is often found in the shape of a maple leaf is referred to as soft candy. Here the syrup is taken to 240 degrees. Once it reaches the right temperature, it is poured into rubber molds and set aside to dry.

Another maple treat is taffy, which depends on Mother Nature: It’s maple syrup on snow.

Using a candy thermometer, the syrup is boiled to between 235 and 240 degrees. To test, put a drop of the syrup into a glass of water. It the drop stays intact, it’s the right temperature. Remove the syrup from the heat and pour over a clean (and the key word here is “clean”) blanket of snow. Press a popsicle stick into syrup and roll it up.

“A lot of people eat it with a pickle,” says Locke of Sugarmomma’s Maple Farm. She claims she doesn’t know why. “I’m not a pickle person.” 

But according to the website Munchies (munchies.vice.com), when people eat the taffy and their teeth stick together a good bite of pickle clears everything up!

Locke doesn’t shy away from maple syrup. Along with maple cream, sugar candy and taffy, she makes maple cotton candy, a maple-chipotle spice blend and Sugarmomma’s very special Maple Hot Sauce. If you want the recipe, good luck.

“I will not give you it!” Locke says as if she’s been asked a million times. “I’m the only one with it, it’s my own recipe and I will not give it out.”

The good news is that you can find it at Sugarmomma’s farm.

Maple hard candy isn’t as easy to find in New Hampshire sugar houses because it’s made from equal parts maple syrup, corn syrup and white sugar, and that means it must be made in a commercial kitchen.

Clearly, maple syrup doesn’t have to be all about pancakes, there’s plenty of sweetness to go around. See for yourself next month when the 2018 New Hampshire Maple Weekend takes place March 24 and 25.

For more information, contact the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association at 225-3757 or visit www.nhmapleproducers.com.

They know their maple cream. Where to find the maple farms mentioned in this article: 

Maple View Sugarhouse
141 Wakefield Road, Union

Folsom’s Sugarhouse
130 Candia Road, Chester

Mapletree Farm
109 Oak Hill, East Concord

Sugarmomma’s Maple Farm
213 Ridge Road, Northwood

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