Why is snow white? Is there a difference between frozen water and snow? There most definitely is which is why you can't make the perfect sno' cone out of crushed ice cubes. The 'ice' in a sno' cone is shaved, not crushed which is why it doesn't look or feel the same.
Shaved 'snow' mimics real snow better than it would in a blender because real snow is made up of many different sizes and shapes of ice crystals all mixed in together. When a light particle (photon) enters a flake of real snow, it changes direction many times before exiting out of the snow flake. Every time it refracts, its crystals bounce off all the colours in the spectrum of light. When the photons move quickly or spin, the object appears white.
Is it a Sno' Cone or a Snow Ball?
Now that we know why snow is white, let's further stipulate that there are two types of tasty treats: a sno' cone and a snow ball. A sno' cone is made of a harder, grated ice and is be-decked with a moderate quantity of fruit flavoured syrup. A snowball is made from very fine bits of shaved ice and drizzled with a generous portion of flavoured syrup. There are other differences between the two depending on whether you are enjoying your cone on the east coast, the west coast or from an independent and creative local vendor. Rumour has it that snow cones in Hawaii are served with ice cream on the bottom of the cup, layered with finely shaved ice and topped with sweet, thick milk and flavoured with cinnamon.
How to Make a Sno' Cone
Placing ice cubes inside a blender to make your own sno' cone, will not give you're the most authentic snow cone or snow ball. A blender creates bigger chunks of ice that do not stick together or layer in the same way that shaved ice does. You can also blend too much which creates water that results in clumps of 'snow' that are difficult to navigate.
Back in the olden days of snow cone nibbling, ice was shaved from large chunks using a hand-held wooden plane. This produced a fine, fluffy, white 'snow'. Technically, you could shave your 'snow' from a large block of ice using a stainless steel cheese grater, but it would likely melt before you had enough for one cone. A hand-powered, sno' cone ice shaver will give you better results and a larger commercial ice shaver will produce an authentic, professional sno' cone. If you are planning on starting your own sno' cone cart, get a very small business loan or save a few hundred dollars and purchase a commercial ice shaver for the most appealing cone.
How to Make Sno' Cone Syrup
The next step in the secret of a perfect sno' cone is the syrup. You can buy sno' cone syrup or make your own using the following recipe:
- Mix 1 cup of water and 2 cups of white sugar in a pot. (you can reduce the sweetness buy using equal parts sugar and water)
- Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until all of the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has a slight syrupy consistency.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow the liquid to cool; continue to stir
You can either add food colouring and extract (to taste) right in the pot or divide the syrup into bottles using a ladle. Individualize each bottle with your favourite combination of extract and food colour.
Popular extracts include peppermint with green food colouring, strawberry with red food colouring, coconut with blue food colouring or lemon and vanilla with yellow food colouring.
Stir or shake well to combine syrup, food colour and extracts. Store finished syrup in the refrigerator.
Wait for the next sunny, summer day. Make your sno' cone experience complete by scooping the shaved ice into a cone-shaped paper cup, drizzle with your favourite flavour and enjoy one of the world's most treasured secrets for cooling off in the heat.