It’s winter! In central New Hampshire where I live, snow from the first big storm of the season is falling and ice has covered the pond behind my house.
I’ll get a lot of exercise today and tomorrow shoveling pathways, de-icing the driveway, and snowshoeing in the adjacent woods.
Snow and ice also have many household uses. If you don’t have any just outside your kitchen door, use cubed or crushed ice from your freezer.
- Make maple sugar on snow. Growing up in Vermont in a family with many farmer relatives, every spring I sampled the world’s most fabulous candy. Anyone can make it. Collect clean, fresh snow and pack it hard into small bowls. Leave it outdoors until you’re ready . Boil some maple syrup until a bit of it dribbled into cold water forms a ball you can lift out with your fingers. Drizzle onto the bowl of snow, where the syrup will harden into a soft maple leather. Pull it off, pop it into your mouth. Indescribable sweet pleasure! Chasing it with a sour dill pickle cuts the sweetness and enables you to keep eating.
- Make snow cream. Many parts of the nation consider this mixture of fresh snow, sugar, milk (cream, evaporated milk, or half-and-half) and vanilla a winter treat. I’ve tasted it but never made it myself. If you do make it, work fast or make it outside just before serving to keep your snow cream cold. Here’s a variation that adds frozen strawberries.
- Thicken a salad dressing. Throw a chunk of ice into your oil-and-vinegar dressing, shake, then remove the ice. The ice will form a thick emulsion, allowing the the dressing to distribute itself evenly over your salad without separating.
- Fluff up rice or other grain dishes when reheating. If you’re reheating leftover rice or other grain dish, toss a couple of ice cubes or a small ball of fresh snow into the dish before microwaving.
Warning: To avoid skin damage, don’t apply ice directly to a burn, wound, or sprain.
- Treat or prevent inflammation. Half-fill a (large or small, according to the size and location of the injured area) sealable baggie with fresh snow, zip it up, and wrap it around a fresh sprain or tendon pull over a thin towel. By the time the snow half-melts, remove the baggie. Five or 10 minutes is long enough to ice.
- Treat a burn. Treat minor burns using ice or snow to cool a bowl of water, then wrap a towel that’s been soaked in cold water around the affected area. Seek medical care if the burn is severe or blistered, or your skin is broken. Don’t apply ice or snow directly to the burn.
- Cool pizza-mouth. Ouch! There’s nothing like the searing pain of scorching the roof of your mouth with a piece of hot pizza. When you feel the burn, feeding yourself a few teaspoons of fresh, clean snow will help ease the sting and may prevent blistering.
- Get comfortably numb. Rub a ball of snow or a chunk of ice over the area before plucking eyebrows or removing a splinter to numb the pain.
Around the house
- Water houseplants. Water houseplants that are hard to reach with your watering can or that tend to overflow when you water them by tossing a small snowball or a few chunks of ice on top the the soil.
- Remove stuck-on chewing gum. Just rub an ice cube over the gum to stiffen it so it will flake or pull off. Inside the clothes dryer, wait for the dryer to cool down, then rub the area with ice sealed in a small baggie. Scrape off the hardened gum with a soft plastic scrubber, remove remaining scum with a cloth wet with white vinegar.
- Remove dents from carpets and rugs. Let an ice cube (or several cubes, as needed) melt in the depression caused by the weight of a furniture leg (or other heavy object). Then fluff up the pile of the rug and let the treated area air-dry
- Clean narrow-necked bottles or vases. Add a small handful of Kosher salt and a few tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of crushed ice. Swish and shake the mixture around inside the item and its neck for a minute or two.