Sunday, March 22, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly #21

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #21: 

"Rare/Scarce Ingredients"

The Challenge: Rare/Scarce Ingredients
The rare ingredient I chose was Maple Sugar. Maple sap flows from trees in late winter and the early spring as the days start to warm up, usually February and March but this year in mid-late March. The sap flows clear and barely sweet. After the sap is collected from maple trees in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Quebec, Canada; the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire (and to a lesser degree, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, Canada; the states of New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan), it is boiled and filtered to make syrup. [1] See the process at Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, New Hampshire. Maple sugar is made by boiling the sap longer than needed to make syrup. Native Americans discovered the process and placed a high value on maple sugar. Maple sugar was known as ziinzibaakwad or Sinibuckwud in the Algonquin language. [2]

European colonists called this type of sugar "Indian Sugar." They copied the techniques and began exporting maple sugar in the 17th century. [3] In the 18th century, as cane sugar became a valuable, expensive commodity and a hot political topic (Revolutionary War, slavery), maple sugar was a happy alternative.  However, by the early 19th century, white sugar became favored by Europeans and Americans of European descent, though maple sugar was still cheaper.[4] In 1890, U.S. President William McKinley imposed a tariff on high quality white sugar, in hope of stimulating the production of local sugar. Despite the attempt, white sugar remained the favorite of the American public. [5] During the World Wars, when sugar was rationed, maple syrup and maple sugar replaced cane sugar as a sweetener. Today maple sugar is rare and can usually be found at New England farms and probably at winter farmer's markets and farm stands.  (Please note that the stuff in the plastic jug by well-known brands is not true maple syrup).

[1]Helen and Scott Nearing, The Maple Sugar Book, New York, 1950.
[2]"maple sugar," Wikipedia; Nearing, 23.
[3] Wikipedia.
[4] Nearing, 42, 63.
[5]Nearing, 64.

The Recipe: 
Maple Nuggets
Nearing, 249
1950, America

Boil 1 c. maple syrup or 1 c. maple sugar with a few tablespoons of water until 325 degrees. Remove from fire and add 2 T. butter and beat until begins to thicken. Add 3 cups puffed rice or wheat which have been crisped over heat. Mix thoroughly. Drop on wax paper. Needs no cooking.

How Did You Make It:
Unfortunately I lost my photos.
I measured out 1/4 c. of maple sugar and a Tablespoon of water and boiled. My mixture was too watery so I added some maple syrup and boiled longer. My candy thermometer wouldn't work in my small pan so I had to guess. When the mixture boiled and thickened a bit, I poured in some Rice Krispies and made into lumps. I don't think I did it right and I only had about 3 pieces of candy.

I then tried Maple Creams from Aunt Babette's Cookbook published in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1889.
I boiled about 1/4 cup sugar with a little water until the soft ball stage. I managed one ball before my sugar hardened. 

Time to Complete: A couple hours probably. I wasn't very patient and didn't see how long it took.

Total Cost:
Maple sugar cost $3.99 for 3 oz. at the maple barn

How Successful Was It?: Failure!

How Accurate Is It?:  The recipe was accurate but my chemistry was all wrong!

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