Maple confections — A sweet gift for Valentine’s Day

Syrup and Confections are available at Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy. (Photo provided by Parker Family Maple Farm)

Valentine’s Day. The day when, more than at any other time of the year, people declare feelings of romantic interest, love, and adoration for one another. This is most-often done with a card. Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards will be exchanged in the US, this year; 2.6 billion worldwide (Greeting Card Association).

The oldest known Valentine’s Day card, if you will, is still in existence. It’s a poem from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife; written while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415, and preserved in the British Library in London.

Often a confectionary gift is presented as an affirmation of romantic or enduring love, as well. Sweets for one’s sweetheart. Confectionary-gift-giving appears to have roots in Victorian England, when Richard Cadbury, the second son of British cocoa trader and chocolate manufacturer John Cadbury and his wife, Candia, joined his father and uncle, Benjamin, in the family business. Chocolate was all the rage among the British aristocracy and Cadbury Brothers; chosen as cocoa manufacturer to Queen Victoria in 1853, had been introducing new lines of ‘eating’ chocolate at a time when most chocolate and cocoa were produced for drinking. Richard recognized a valuable marketing opportunity for the new chocolates and started selling them in attractively decorated boxes, which he personally designed.

Contemporary Valentine’s-Day-gift confections also include hard-candies; among them the ever-popular conversation hearts, as well as cakes, cupcakes, cookies, fudge, and much more.

Unfortunately, one of the most overlooked options for Valentine’s Day gift giving; one that is sweet, delicious, healthier than processed-white-sugar-based candies, and that supports local agriculture; is melt-in-your-mouth Valentine’s Day maple confections. If you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day confection-gift for your sweetheart, many area maple syrup producers have maple cream and (heart-shaped) candies available for purchase right now. Some also offer block and granulated maple sugar, maple-coated nuts(peanuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts), maple jelly, maple cotton candy, maple lollipops and hard candy, and much more. All make fantastic gifts.

Keep in mind, too, that maple syrup is the perfect addition to a homemade Valentine’s Day breakfast in bed. Consider, for example, double-thick Texas French toast dipped in your favorite egg mix, grilled or griddled to a hot, crisp finish, stuffed with cream cheese (optional) and fresh fruit, and topped with pure maple syrup. Yummy!

To find a maple-confections-maker near you, visit the New York State Maple Producers Association website at nysmaple.com and click on ‘Find a Maple Farm’. You can enter your zip code where it says ‘near’, click on the magnifying glass, and then scroll down to find a producer list. Click on the farm(s) of your choice. Then click on ‘offers the following products’.

According to New York State Maple Extension Specialist Steve Childs, converting maple syrup into confections can increase producer income four to five-fold, over time. NYS Extension Forester and Senior Extension Associate Peter Smallidge, Director of Cornell’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, believes that producers can increase their incomes by 10 to 30 percent in just two to three years.

No doubt about it, the market is there. In fact, New Yorkers consistently consume significantly more value-added maple products than are produced in the state. What’s more, millions of urban and suburban New Yorkers do not have access to maple syrup or maple confections produced in New York State because these products are made and marketed predominantly in New York’s rural areas. Producers are encouraged to learn how to market their value-added products to retailers and consumers in urban and suburban locations statewide, and elsewhere.

Cornell Cooperative Extension is dedicated to improving the sustainable production of high-quality maple products and enhancing the maple industry with increased educational outreach and expanded research programming that addresses the needs of both producers and consumers. Workshops like this provide maple producers with an opportunity to learn how to make the highest quality value-added pure maple products and test those products against an established standard of quality.

How to Make Basic, High-Quality, Value-Added Maple Confections

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County will offer an introductory maple confections-making workshop, which will explore the fundamentals of making value added maple confections, including invert sugar, crystallization, making maple sugar and maple cream, pricing, and marketing. The workshop is intended for those who are new or relatively new to making maple confections.

Scott St. Mary of Cedar Brook Farm Maple Confections will be instructing. Cedar Brook produces a wide variety of value-added maple products including maple sugar, maple candies, maple cream, flavor-infused maple syrups, maple hard candy, and maple popcorn.

WHEN: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. Registration begins at 5:45 p.m

WHERE: Franklin County Courthouse Kitchen Conference Room, 55 West Main St., Malone

TO REGISTER/MORE INFO: visit franklin.cce.cornell.edu or contact Jessica by phone at 518-483-7403 or by email: jlr15@cornell.edu.

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