Sugar on snow makes bad weather sweet

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Silly me to think that pancakes on a snowy day would satisfy my 9-year-old. My daughter Nazrana was apparently a resident of Vermont in a previous life (she is Hindu by birth). Years ago, after reading the wonderful book “Maple Syrup Season” by Ann Purmell, we made “sugar on snow,” the maple taffy made by boiling syrup and pouring it over well-packed snow. We decided to try it again when snow recently cancelled school.

Sugar on snow is a treat throughout New England. Sometimes called “leather aprons,” the thick, gooey mouthfuls are often accompanied by sour pickles (to cut the sweetness) and doughnuts (because some find it not sweet enough?). In Vermont, the country’s largest producer of maple syrup, sugar-on-snow parties herald spring. In New Hampshire, sugar houses across the state band together for a weekend of horse-drawn carriage rides and taffy twirling. Sugar on snow is also a favorite in upstate New York, the country’s second largest maple syrup producer. (For a first-hand account of sugaring, read Nevin Martell’s piece about growing up in a maple family.)

We’ve put together a slideshow of our snow-day efforts, along with a recipe – just in case we get more snow.


Makes as many servings as you can eat

AFR Tested

Sugar on Snow

Sugar on snow is a treat throughout northern New England. It is often made in spring, when the sap runs and gets boiled into syrup. It is usually eaten with sour pickles (to cut the sweetness), coffee and doughnuts (for more sweetness).


  • Fresh, clean snow
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Sour pickles
  • Doughnuts


Pack fresh clean snow into a large baking dish. Pat it down firmly until it is well packed. Place the baking dish in the freezer to stay cold while the syrup boils.

Put a cup or two of syrup into a large pot (it will boil over if the pot is too small.) Attach a candy thermometer to the pot, and turn the heat to medium high. Let the syrup slowly begin to boil, being careful not to let it burn. Bring the syrup to 234 degrees F.

Retrieve the snow from the freezer. Using a small ladle, drizzle the boiled syrup over the snow in thick strips. Let it set for about 5 seconds. Use a fork to lift the taffy off the snow, twirling as you go. Serve with sour pickles, doughnuts and hot, black coffee.

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4 Responses to Sugar on snow makes bad weather sweet

  1. Judith Bienvenu January 28, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    We used to make this every winter when I lived in Vermont!
    I had forgotten all about it since I moved to Maryland.
    I hope we get more snow this winter, I’m all ready to make some!

  2. Profile photo of Domenica Marchetti
    Domenica Marchetti January 29, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Michele, I just loved this how-to slide show, especially with Nazrana in it. I had no idea about the sour pickles. Your mention of the book Maple Syrup Season makes me think of my favorite winter children’s books. One is called Blue Moose, by Daniel Pinkwater, about a blue moose in the woods of Maine that wanders into a restaurant and is taken in by the owner, who serves him hot chowder and gingerbread. Another is Snow, by Uri Shulevitz. The pictures are wonderful ~ beautiful cityscapes and Edwardian characters. And the third is Snowflake Bentley, about the odd photographer who was one of the first to capture detailed pictures of snowflakes on film. I hope Nazu is enjoying our wintry weather (I am over it).

  3. Colleen January 30, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    I have never heard of this and I’m from PA! Nazu could NOT be more adorable.

  4. Winnie Ryan March 6, 2015 at 7:14 am #

    reminders of my childhood. Sugaring season and “mud season” are almost the same time, but the sugaring is much more fun. Sugar on snow with pickles and doughnuts is the classic and going home with a gallon of syrup for the year for pancakes and to use for baked beans. One of the pleasures of growing up in central New England.