Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tiemann Memoirs Chapter 14/Sugar on Snow Recipe

Following Chapter 14 are directions to make “Sugar on Snow.” To read the prelude and other chapters of Tiemann’s Memoirs go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.

Hardly had the scaffold been moved when, just before Easter, there was another blizzard. Then on Easter it reined most of the day and got very messy.
Of course we could do no wagering and feared the season would pass; even if the sap continued to run it becomes dark and strong after the leaf buds begin to swell. It is the first run, which makes superior table syrup, which (contrary to what city folks think) is light in color and has a delicate flavor. Later runs can be used only up to a point; toward the end the very dark syrup is good only to season smoking tobacco, for which purpose a large quantity is sold.

During the worst weather it was not too cold to work out in the shed room, where I began ripping down the board ceiling. Even without plaster dust it was as dirty a job, as had been that in the house. The boarding was thin, light stuff, easily split, and not much could be salvaged. This applied also to the walls. It was a considerable fire hazard as, having been papered over, it could have been ignited by a spark..- We also hoped the room would be cooler when used as the sum­mer kitchen if it was open to the roof.

In between times I carried out rotten potatoes from the cellar and more junk from places of concealment in the attic: things had been tucked under the eves before the more inaccessible part was boarded off, and even under the floor where I came across a wool card,- the only thing worth keeping. Always was the stable and chicken coop to keep clean, and I managed to spread four loads of manure out back of the house where we planned to have the kitchen garden. Convenient as this spot was, there was enough snow left to give Dan difficulty. Bringing up some of the new-cut wood seemed easy by comparison.

Also on a couple of fair days the slating job was resumed.

The season had now arrived when all good farmers work from "kin see to can't see." It was light enough in the morning so I was getting up at 5:30, altho the habit was hard to resume. As the snow melted fast in the sun it started the spring clamor of the brooks and this was a grand sound albeit somewhat awe-inspiring, especially on one of the frequent rainy days. Then the rush of water was accompanied by the grinding of big stones as the current moved them inexorably down-stream. But the finest to hear was the bird-song, which early risers can appreciate best: Already there were robins, always such cheery fellows, and song sparrows and even bluebirds.

For a few days more sugaring was in full blast. The term is used loosely to apply to the whole process from tapping the trees (always hard ("rock") maples) thru boiling down to canning syrup and finishing some off as sugar.' Here-abouts considerable "soft" sugar was put up in large pails from which it could be spooned to use as a spread or re-melted for syrup. In that and subsequent years we generally made enough syrup for our own use, but never had a surplus to sell. Yet people were asking if we couldn't send them some and it seemed too bad to let a ready market go begging; so Isabel made some local con­tacts, was able to purchase a moderate quantity of excellent grade at a good price, and shipped it off in quota and gallons at a nice profit. She built up a small but steady custom and it was this kind of thing, minor in itself, which helped keep us going.

We also had the pleasure of our first "sugar on snow," a delicacy which is fast disappearing. Done in the old-fashioned ways one of the neighbor women would ask in a few friends and sort them around a table with milk pans of firm-packed snow in front of each. The syrup, probably made from "soft sugar," would be heating on the stove, and at just the proper consistency it was brought to the table in a pitcher and poured in curlicues over the snow, harden­ing to the point where it could be picked up with a fork. Ummm! With it there were doughnuts and, if very correct, sour pickles. One party like this would do me for a long time, but the kids never got tired of them. Now a-days they are popular for church socials.

I was fortunate to get the roofing paper-a good grade-on the new chicken-house between showers, of which we had more than a sufficiency. This at least protected the structure, but much remained to be done. - It seemed more important to me to finish with the house roof, so rather then waiting for the slate all to be in place I went a head on nice days to finish painting the front eaves, which involved some repair, and also puttying old nail-holes. Vie wanted to get the scaffold down before visitors began to arrive.

It was a satisfaction to have the house in good order (at least, in com­parison to the wry it had been.) The attic gave us a superlative storage space-until it became so cluttered it had to be cleared again, which seems the habit with attics. I've always wondered how a family can get along without one. It has even been useful as a play-place for the grandchildren....

Before the snow had quite disappeared from the garden, I started digging parsnips,- a root crop which is best left in the ground during the winter as freezing is supposed to improve the quality. After trying them, sliced and fried, the family voted that they could be left - period This was unfortunate, as they were supposed to eke out our failing larder But there are some things which it seems one must grow up with to appre­ciate. We came to this conclusion, later on, about dandelion greens and milkweed tips,- both considered delicacies hereabout.

Signs of spring at last were multiplying. Between heavy rains came days of lovely warm sun. The seed-flats in the south window were filled with rows of green sprouts. A few hens had already gotten over their broodi­ness end were beginning to 1ay again,- altho with eggs bringing only 16¢ a dozen this did not help much toward the increasing price of feed. But then the "peepers" in the back brook began to sing and we never had heard anything like their shrill, steady symphony,- which would die to silence in an instant if they were disturbed. These tiny frogs, coming out from their mud beds, seem to know without fail when spring is here.  I have mentioned mud season, which that year lasted a month but we thought never would end. Getting places was more difficult and uncertain then even in midwinter. To use runners was impossible and wheels not much better, when in some spots a vehicle might "sink to the X’s." With a horse one could generally keep going, albeit at a snail's paces but a car would stop right there and often only a team could get it out. So travel was negligible, and limited to necessity as when I had to go to the village to pick up grain, using the lumber wagon of course.

Sugar on Snow Recipe: While Tiemann provides a general idea of how to make sugar on snow, Isabel would have gauged whether it was done by sight or by testing it periodically by dropping some into a glass of cold water, or onto the snow.  

• Use a heavy pot and boil syrup slowly to 232-255 (soft boil stage) on a candy thermometer. Test by dropping small amounts onto a pan of snow or ice. The syrup should stay on top of the surface.
• Scoop snow into a large bowl or pan (freeze snow in containers)
• Drizzle the hot syrup over the snow
• Use a fork to pull off the sticky top layer
• Serve with sour pickles and doughnuts.

If you want to make this in the summer, use crushed or shaved ice in place of snow.  Better yet, pour it over ice cream. Yummm.

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