It’s mid-February. It’s snowed again. You’ve built your annual snowman, used up your yearly capacity for snow photos and gone sledding on the one day there was enough snow to do so. Long walks in the snow are passé, you’re too old to catch another snowflake on your tongue and the skiing in Bloomington is subpar.
There’s only one thing left to do with the snow — eat it. In the absence of summer’s tomatoes or autumn’s squashes, we have limited seasonal ingredients. But fresh snow is a perfect, ephemeral treat.
Make sure your snow is fresh and clean — steer clear of roadways and Superfund sites, and it’s probably as safe as most of the food you eat. And while snow is about as blank a canvas as there can be, here are some ideas to start:
Call it a snowball, kakigori, shave ice — you get the point. Pack some snow in a bowl, add sugar syrup and voilà — dessert. The version I made, using grenadine leftover from an ill-fated cocktail night and sweetened condensed milk, is inspired by the classic Thai dessert “nam kang sai.” But any type of flavored sugar syrup, from homemade mixtures to Torani, would work. The milk is optional but I think it really completes the experience.
The first time I ever had an amaretto sour was as a college junior visiting a friend in Austria, made with snow because we didn’t have any ice. For many years I thought of the drink as a cool European thing before learning that it is widely ridiculed in the bar world.
Despite apparently being extremely uncool, amaretto sours are delicious. I pour a 2:1 ratio of amaretto to lemon juice on a glass of packed snow — the 21+ version of a snow cone. If you like it sweeter you can add some simple syrup, but I find the sweetness of the amaretto does the job. If you’re feeling fancy, put a cherry on top.
My final snow day recipe is one that’s haunted me since my little-discussed third grade “Little House on the Prairie” obsession — molasses snow candy. I used the recipe on the official Little House website, though I cannot comprehend why they’d suggest you make two cups of the stuff. There’s only so much molasses a person can reasonably consume. This is more about the process than the end result — the candy is nice, but don’t make much more than you’ll eat that day.
I’d recommend following their instructions but with a ¼ cup each of molasses and packed brown sugar instead of a full cup. It’s simple — boil them together until they reach the hard crack stage. When 99% of the water in the syrup has evaporated, pour patterns on a packed pan-full of snow, then eat. Do not use a towel to dry like they suggest, little fibers will stick to your candy. Just make a cup of coffee and eat the candy with it, straight from the snow, thinking about all the small things that your childhood self dreamed of doing someday.