This year, I landed one of the parent volunteer jobs with the taffy (La Tire).
The recipe and process is simple:
- Boil the maple syrup until it reaches a temperature of at least 235°F. You can see it's a pretty fast boil - so fast my phone blurred the bubbles.
- Pour it in strips over some crushed ice. Well, we used crushed ice since there's not nearly enough snow to use.
Our trough, by the way, is a fabulous eavestrough hack. It's raised at the other end so that the melted ice drips off of this end into a bucket to avoid puddles.
The pouring device is a coffee butler.
- Roll popsicle sticks over the strips to pick up the syrup. Voilà, taffy you can eat off of a stick.
It sounds so simple, but as I learned at the Girl Guides Camp last weekend, the boiling of the syrup is not as easy as it sounds. None of us at the camp were candy makers. I had some idea of the task, but I'd never done it before. In a nutshell, our taffy didn't work out.
But today, I boiled enough pots of the syrup to feel that I know what I'm doing. So if you're interested in making the taffy, and you're not a candy maker, you've come to the right place for some tips to make your taffy a roaring success.
1. You must use real maple syrup. Yes, it's pricey, but nothing else will work.
2. Use a big deep pot and don't fill it more than 1/3 full of syrup.
3. Don't be timid with the boil. Let it really boil. Part of this "really boil" is to let it foam up to almost the top of your pot - that's why it's only filled about 1/3. This kind of boil seemed to be important in getting everything to work properly. But, be careful; it easily boils over.
4. Use a proper candy thermometer that goes up well beyond 300°F. The taffy won't do anything until it reaches at least 230°F or 235°F. You have some leeway at the upper end - one parent told me it's ok to get up to 250°F. Personally I think that's risky, but knowing there's some room after 235°F to just over 240°F is good to know.
5. Don't stir it. I'll be honest, I'm not sure if this is a real rule or not, but we didn't stir it today, and nothing stuck. So, don't stir it.
6. The first batch takes a long time - about 40 minutes, but once the pot is hot the next batches go much more quickly.
7. Even though it takes a long time, don't leave it unattended. It can boil over quickly. That's a yucky mess to clean up.
8. You can make it before you need it and store it in the fridge. Just be sure to add corn syrup after it's done boiling to stop it from crystallizing as it cools. For a 1L bottle of syrup I added about 1/4 c of corn syrup (about 3 decent squirts) and that seemed to work. Then to use, we just heated it a bit to make it more pourable. I never heard any comments from the pourers so it must have worked out today.
Now, of course, the kids want to make our own taffy this weekend. We likely won't, but at least now I have some confidence (and dare I say skill?) in how to boil this syrup. And maybe, it will inspire me to peek into the world of candy making and give it a try.