New Englanders and Eastern Canadians celebrate sugaring season (the time of year when maple sap is ready for collection) by making candy from the best of winter’s harvest: maple syrup and snow.
Maple taffy, called “Sugar on Snow” in New England and “Tire sur la Neige” in francophone Canada, is a confectionary unique to maple country. Made by pouring boiling maple sap over a mound of fresh snow, this treat appears when winter gives way to spring. Maple sap collection is made possible by above-freezing days and below-freezing nights. The changes in air pressure create suction that pulls water into the tree at night and pushes sap out during warmer days.
When sap is collected, it only contains about two percent sugar. This liquid is reduced and thickened to form a syrup. To create Sugar on Snow, maple syrup is heated and then poured over a mound of snow. As the syrup hardens, it forms a taffy-like candy. Because the best powder falls in the peak of winter, some New Englanders (especially in Vermont) readily admit to storing trash bags of snow in the freezer in preparation for sugaring season.
Residents of sugaring country theme entire parties around Sugar on Snow, and no party is complete without the classic accoutrements: dill pickles, plain doughnuts, and coffee. A recipe for Sugar on Snow that appeared in a 1939 issue of Yankee Magazine suggested doughnuts for taffy dipping and pickles to cut the sweetness. The sour saltiness of the pickles is necessary “so that one may begin all over again.”