Near the top of the list of "Favorite Things My Mother Used to Make" is homemade maple sugar candy. If you've bought some before, you know it's still excellent, but making it at home allows you to control the texture. Usually, store-bought maple sugar is hard and dry, but if you wish to at home, you can make the consistency more like fudge or even make one of my favorites-- spreadable maple cream.
If you've never had maple sugar candy before, you are missing out! I should mail you a piece or two.
I'm lifting instructions from the website massmaple.org, because my vague "instructions" will probably annoy people who haven't made candy before. I do recommend using a large, heavy-bottomed pot, as this distributes heat more evenly. Also make sure you test (calibrate) your candy thermometer before beginning. For this batch, I heated the syrup to 240 degrees F before stirring. The candy was firm and hard, but not completely brittle. For softer candy, one should boil it to 235 degrees; for harder, brittle candy, boil it to 245 degrees. The hotter the syrup gets, the faster it will turn color and harden (and also the easier it will scorch!), so be on the lookout for that magic moment while it cools and when you're stirring, when it loses glossiness and begins to look creamy-colored. When that happens, pour it off into your pan, and it will harden further after a few minutes. You can then slice it and let it cool completely.
I usually use one quart of maple syrup and pour the finished product into a lightly greased 13 x 9 pan. One quart of syrup yields 2 pounds of candy.
Pure Maple Syrup Candy (instructions copied from here)
1. Fill pan partially with water and the thermometer.2. Bring to a boil, and note the temperature of the boiling water. Empty the pan.
3. Place syrup in pan; use a deep pan as the boiling syrup will foam up fairly high when boiling.
4. Add a few drops of oil or butter. (This helps to keep foam down).
5. Boil carefully over high heat without stirring, until temperature of the boiling syrup is 32 degrees F above the boiling point of the water, as noted earlier. Watch carefully as the temperature climbs higher. It can get too hot very quickly near the end. If your pan boils over, you'll have a real mess! If it cooks too long it can scorch, even catch fire. Watch it! (This is not a place for children nearby, as the boiling syrup is VERY hot, and can stick and burn).
6. Remove from heat, and let cool for 3-5 minutes.
7. Stir evenly by hand (don't beat) until the liquid loses its gloss and starts to become opaque. This should take a few minutes, and the tricky part is to learn the exact correct moment to pour off. Stir too long and the thickened syrup will "set up" (harden) in the pan. If this happens, add a cup of water, and re-heat slowly to dissolve sugar, then start over. If you don't stir long enough, the sugar may not "set up" in the molds at all.
8. Pour carefully into molds. Small aluminum foil pans can be used.
9. Allow to cool, remove from molds, place on a rack to dry for a few hours...enjoy!