Make your own maple sugar with one single ingredient, heat, and a bit of elbow grease. Learn how to transform pure maple syrup into unrefined maple sugar.
It is easy to make maple sugar by simply boiling pure maple syrup until it evaporates into a granulated sugar form. Maple sugar has a strong maple fragrance but a mild maple flavor. Use it to lightly sweeten everything from fruit to drinks, and as a sugar substitute in baked goods.
The tapping of maple trees and making a natural sweetener is a cultural tradition in New England leading back to colonial times.
Cane sugar was imported, highly expensive, and mostly reserved for the rich. For the rest of the population, maple syrup and maple sugar was the sweetener of choice found in the kitchen. Plus folks could make it themselves in late winter and early spring before the chores of farming began for the season. Maple sugar was much easier to store and transport than maple syrup.
If you are tapping trees and making maple syrup anyway, you might as well take it a step further and boil up a few batches of granulated maple sugar. Maple sugar adds a mild maple flavor when sprinkled on oatmeal, apple slices, and used in baked goods.
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The first time I made maple sugar was a complete accident. I was finishing the final boil of sap into maple syrup indoors on the kitchen stove. I had the candy thermometer clipped to the side of the pot to monitor the temperature, but I was distracted and the temperature rose way too high for maple syrup.
I pulled the pot off the heat and let it cool down. When I stirred it, I discovered the maple syrup was thick and crystalized. It was soft, but definitely no longer liquid. Ah! It was maple sugar!
I knew I had to continue to stir vigorously to help the moisture evaporate and prevent the sugar from hardening solid. So I stirred and stirred until I thought my arm would fall off. Eventually, it fluffed out, lightened in color, and developed a granulated sugar texture. It smelled so good!
Tips for Making Maple Sugar
When making maple syrup, the sap officially becomes maple syrup when it reaches 7.1˚F above the boiling point of water. This temperature varies depending on your elevation.
Maple sugar is heated at a higher temperature. Heating to 50-60˚F above the boiling point of water will cause the liquid to form into grainy dry maple sugar.
- 50˚F above boiling will make a soft sugar similar to brown sugar.
- 60˚F above boiling will make a dryer sugar, more like table sugar but smaller grains.
Again, this temperature varies depending on your elevation. Our target temperature for making maple sugar in our elevation is about 270˚F.
You can look up the boiling point of water for your location by entering your zip code here.
Or bring a pot of water to boil over high heat and measure the temperature with a thermometer. Add 50 or 60 to that amount and you’ll have your target temperature for making maple sugar.
What You Need to Make Maple Sugar:
Pure maple sugar: One quart of 100% pure maple syrup will make about 2 pounds (3 cups) of granulated maple sugar. A light grade maple syrup makes a drier finished granular sugar than dark grade.
Large, high-sided pot: The maple syrup will foam up as it boils. So use a deep pot to prevent the syrup from boiling over.
Candy thermometer: You will need to monitor the temperature of the maple syrup as it boils to know when it is ready to cool, and ready to stir it into maple sugar.
Wooden spoon: Choose a long handle wooden spoon to help avoid burns.
Heatproof cutting board: To hold the hot pot of maple syrup as it cools down.
Sieve or strainer: To sift out the finer grains of maple sugar.
Food processor: Optional to break up the larger chunks of maple sugar into fine particles.
Also consider using oven mitts and an apron to prevent burns while boiling and stirring the hot maple syrup.
How to Make Granulated Maple Sugar
Step 1: Pour the maple syrup into the pot and bring it to a low boil over medium-high heat. I know it is tempting, but don’t stir unless the pot is in danger of boiling over. Adjust the heat if your boil is too vigorous and foam climbs the high up the pot.
Step 2: Continue to boil the maple syrup until it darkens in color, reduces to about half its volume, and the thermometer reads 50-60˚F above the boiling point of water. For us, this is around 270˚F.
Step 3: Once the syrup reaches the target temperature, remove the pot from the heat and place on your cutting board to cool down.
Step 4: When the temperature cools to 200˚F and start stirring briskly with the wooden spoon. Continue stirring until the maple syrup lightens, changes texture, dries out, and eventually transforms into granulated sugar, about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Once it looks dry, sift it though a strainer. You can easily push it through with the wooden spoon. Sift out the larger chunks and use your food processor to break these up into smaller particles, and then sift through the strainer again.
Store the maple sugar an airtight container in a cool place. Substitute the same amount of maple sugar for regular sugar called for in your recipes to add maple flavor.
How to Make Maple Sugar
- 4 cups pure maple syrup
- Determine your target temperature for converting maple syrup into sugar (boiling point of water for your elevation, plus 50-60˚F).
- Clip your candy thermometer to a large saucepan. Adjust so it reaches deep into the pot.
- Pour the maple syrup into the pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Don't stir, but monitor the pot and stir only if the maple syrup threatens to boil over. Adjust the heat if your boil is too strong.
- Boil the maple syrup until it darkens in color, reduces to about half its volume, and the thermometer reads 50-60˚F above the boiling point of water. For us, this is around 270˚F.
- Once the syrup reaches the target temperature, remove the pot from the heat and place on a cutting board to cool down.
- When the temperature cools to 200˚F, start stirring briskly with the wooden spoon.
- Continue stirring until the maple syrup lightens and eventually transforms into granulated sugar, about 10 minutes.
- Sift out the larger chunks and use your food processor to break these up into smaller particles.
- Store the maple sugar an airtight container in a cool place. Substitute the same amount of maple sugar for regular sugar called for in your recipes.
- Makes about 2 pounds (3 cups) of granulated maple sugar.
How To Soften Hard Maple Sugar:
Just like brown sugar, maple sugar can harden over time while in storage. Store your maple sugar in an airtight container with a brown sugar keeper in a cool place. If the maple sugar hardens, here are several ways to soften it.
Use Bread: Add a slice of bread to the container on top of the maple sugar. Reseal and let it sit for a day or so. The sugar will absorb moisture from the bread and soften.
Use Apples: Add a few slices of apple to the container, reseal, and let it sit for a day or two until the sugar softens.
Use the Microwave: If you don’t have time to wait for the sugar to soften, turn to your microwave for help. Place the hard sugar in a glass or ceramic bowl, top with a damp paper towel, and microwave on high for 20 seconds. Check the sugar with a fork. If it is still hard, go another 20 seconds. Repeat until the maple sugar is soft.