I know what you’re thinking. I have maple on the brain right now. Blame Canada.
This was another part of my box of Canadian candies, swapped for Seattle chocolate like some kind of confectioner Cold War exchange. For the most part, what was going to be in the box was going to be a mystery. I made one or two small requests, but a lot of what was in the mix I couldn’t have predicted.
And how did my Halifax connection know I liked hard candies?
Man, do I love hard candies.
You know those ribbon candies that people used to joke about, the ones that grandmothers put in candy dishes that were probably more sculptural than edible treat? I’d knock over a hundred babies to get my hand on those when I was younger. Not that my grandparents every had ribbon candies (though my paternal grandfather hid Fruit Stripe gum in the butter keeper of the refrigerator for some reason.) The moral of this tangent is not all stereotypes are true, and additionally, I liked sugar.
For most kids, the hard candies we know are from Brach’s, either the butterscotch disks or the familiar red and white peppermint Star Brite Mints. Occasionally you’d find a cinnamon disk (which were my favorites) or even the chocolate mints, but those never impressed me much. And while I didn’t like these as much as ribbon candy (maybe it was the look of ribbon candy…there certainly was nothing memorable about the taste), I still consumed more than my fair share of these little individually-wrapped sugar bombs.
Except I’m not a patient man. Nor was I a patient kid, for that matter. One of those candies has a life expectancy of about a minute–two, if they’re lucky. I tend to chew.
So here I was with a bag of Maple Syrup Treats from Acadian Maple Products in Nova Scotia. The presentation is a bit fancier than the Star Brites–the plastic around each is sturdier and not a crackly twist on wrapper. Plus, each candy is a warm, amber colored lozenge shaped like a maple leaf. Ok. I’ll admit, the look of these little bastards had me on their side before I tasted one.
Oh, the ingredients, you might ask?
Maple sugar and glucose. Two ingredients. Two. And I suspect the glucose is only there for structural reasons. Maybe give it a bit of shine.
Ok, that’s a bonus.
I opened one up, popped it in my mouth, and was rewarded by a sweet but not over-powering hit of pure maple flavor. These taste cozy, like a hug from mom, or a blanket on a cold, blustery day.
Did I mention that I’m not a patient man?
After about 2 minutes, I slid the candy between my molars and gave a bite.
Holy crap. No dice. The damn thing was solid. It was like sucking on amber. If I really wanted to work on it, I might have been able to break it up, but these things dissolve nice and slow and have some serious structural integrity. This is actually a great thing, as far as I’m concerned, because it gives you a nice, controlled level of flavor and lasts a lot longer because you can’t chew it up.
I found myself savoring these candies.
I may never be able to really enjoy a butterscotch disk again. It will only be a pallid reminder of these maple syrup treats.
And here’s the truly odd thing about it all–I don’t have any particular fondness for maple syrup. Growing up we got whatever was cheapest for our pancakes and waffles, either Log Cabin or Golden Griddle, depending on what coupon was in the paper that particular week. I must have tried it at a friend’s house at some point, or maybe at a fancier restaurant, but it was never my groove. Now, the Butter Pecan syrup they have at IHOP, that was where it was at. Or maybe one of the fruit syrups. But maple? I didn’t see the appeal. I admit that it has a distinctive flavor, and it’s a nice change, but it still isn’t my first choice at the breakfast table.
But for candy, it adds a slight spin to the sweet that I find to be a nice change.
If you have a soft spot for hard candy, try and get a hand on some of these. The concept is simple enough that there are probably other places that make a similar candy. If you live in maple country (I’m looking at you New England) you might luck out there as well. Just remember what Uncle Nate says: “Simple is better. Avoid ingredients you can’t pronounce.”