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We're deep in the heart of winter, and the Northeast has been slammed with winter storms. Around our offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, kids are jumping into snowbanks and shrieking with joy over school cancellations. For the rest of us, it has meant an exhaustive shoveling regimen and painfully slow commutes.
And... snow cooking.
That’s right: The pretty white stuff may have buried your car, but you can get poetic revenge in the kitchen. Like they say, revenge tastes sweet, and it’s best served cold.
So here’s a collection of recipes that use snow to its best effect. We may have strained our backs shoveling the stuff, but in the kitchen we’ll have the last laugh.
1. Sugar on Snow
Sugar on Snow is a New England classic that hardy maple-lovers have enjoyed for over 200 years. The simplest form involves heating maple syrup and pouring it over a pan of fresh packed snow so that it congeals into a sticky, chewy, taffy-like treat.
The Massachusetts Maple Producers Association recommends that the syrup be heated to 234°F or higher before introducing it to the snow. The higher the temperature, the stiffer the resulting candy.
Those who grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books might recognize Sugar on Snow from the first of the series, but may also recall a different snow candy made by the Ingalls family for Christmas.
In this version, a mixture of one part molasses and one part brown sugar is boiled until it reaches the hard crack stage on a candy thermometer—that is, if it's dripped into cold water, it'll form stiff threads that crack when bent. The heated syrup can be poured into shapes on a plate of snow, which will harden into candy. Little House Books has the complete recipe.
2. Snow Pancakes
Believe it or not, snow pancakes are a thing. Supposedly, extremely fresh snow contains trace amounts of ammonia, an ingredient that was once used in baking for its leavening properties. We couldn’t find scientific confirmation of this fact, but we did find enough anecdotal evidence of snow pancake enjoyment to suggest that they’re likely to be delicious—flakey historical legitimacy aside.
3. Snow Ice Cream
It may be cold outside, but we like ice cream any time of year. All the better if you only need a few ingredients, one of them being snow.
NPR published B&B owner Chloe Tuttle’s recipe for a creamy vanilla "snow cream," which she says is extra special because you can only make it when it snows. About Education offers some cool alternative takes on the concept, including two chocolate versions.
Just make sure to get the proportions right and work quickly—otherwise, you could find yourself eating a sweet bowl of snow ice cream soup.
4. Snow Cakes
Did you think pancakes were the only thing you could bake with snow? Nope! You can also bake a snow cake.
Normally, the term refers to a white-frosted cake covered in shredded coconut, but in this case we’re talking about folding snow gently into your batter in pursuit of maximum fluffiness. It’s like the old song goes: “If I knew it was snowing, I would’ve baked a cake.” Or something like that.
Food.com has a recipe for snow cake baked in an 8-inch pan and topped with your favorite frosting, but Denis Cotter uses the term to refer to a mixture of cornmeal and fluffy snow baked in muffin tins and smothered in maple syrup. Find the recipe in his For the Love of Food cookbook.
5. Shaved Ice Dessert
Lastly, a snow food that needs no introduction: snow cones. Or really, any shaved ice dessert.
This one’s so easy you don’t even need a recipe. While you can often find it served in paper cones, we’d recommend scooping up a bowl of snow and going to town with a spoon. Snow cones are traditionally just shaved ice drizzled with flavored syrup, but variations from around the world, including the Chinese baobing and the Guatemalan granizada, offer up even more options.
Douse that sucker in condensed milk or coconut milk. Pour on some juice. Top it with fruit chunks, tapioca pearls, or heck, even candy bits. Your limit is the sky, which of course is where all this tasty snow came from in the first place. Time for some experimentation!
Friends, I know you’re eager to get out there and chow down on a snowbank, but please remember to be smart about it.
“Freshly melted snow is generally considered to be safe [...] without further treatment,” Dr. Liz Bentley, head of The Weather Club at the U.K.’s Royal Meteorological Society, told The Guardian. The key word there is "fresh."
This author has certainly spooned maple syrup-drenched snow into her mouth and lived to tell the tale. Still, we urge you to use only freshly-fallen, pristine, white snow; nothing yellow, dirty, or old. Your culinary revenge against yet another nasty snowstorm will lose its poetic justice if it just makes you sick.
Understood? Excellent! Let’s get cooking. Just as soon as another snowstorm comes along.