Last week when I began my series of Little House on the Prairie recipes, many of my friends and readers were kind enough to share their favorite food memories from the book series. One of them mentioned the following passage from Little House in the Big Woods, and recalled that it was a recipe they’d always wanted to try.
“Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas… One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams on to the snow. They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and were candy. Laura and Mary might eat one piece each, but the rest was saved for Christmas Day.”
Prompted by my own memories of that description and with an abundance of snow available in my yard, I decided to try it! I’m using The Little House Cookbook by Barbara Muhs Walker, published in 1979, as my source.
There are three things you need to know about this recipe. 1.) It’s easy and quick, a great project to share with your children. 2.) It’s messy and you’ll need to brush your teeth after you eat it. 3.) If you don’t like the taste of molasses, you probably won’t like the end product. It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted from a modern candy store. I loved it… but I realize it’s not for everyone!
1 cup dark molasses (I used Blackstrap)
1/2 cup brown sugar
Fill two pans with fresh snow and leave outside to keep chilled until you’re ready to pour the mixture. I used two oversized pizza pans to hold my snow.
Meanwhile, decide which container you’ll use to store the candy and cut several pieces of wax paper, one for the bottom and several for the layers of candy, depending on the size of the container.
Combine the molasses and brown sugar in a medium-sized saucepan (Use non-stick if you have one). Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium high and continue to cook, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
After five minutes of this, test the mixture by dripping a few drops from a spoon into a small glass of very cold water. If it dissolves or mixes with the water, keep cooking and test again every 2-3 minutes with fresh, cold water. You want the mixture to quickly form a hard ball and drop to the bottom of the glass. It took my mixture about 10 minutes of cooking to reach this stage. You can also use a candy thermometer to test the mixture, which should be 245 degrees F.
Remove from heat and pour into a pitcher with a nice spout-I had a batter pitcher which worked perfectly.
Fetch the pans of snow and the cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Working as quickly as you can, begin pouring the mixture in thin streams onto the snow. It takes a bit of practice to keep from pouring a huge gob onto the snow but once you get it, you can form lots of neat patterns with the mixture. I liked doing spider-web type circles. The mixture will harden quickly once on the snow. When it’s hard, remove, pat it as dry as you can with a paper towel and place it in your container. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.