Thursday, December 20, 2007

ye olde Christmas Candy

When I made Christmas candy last year, I wrote a post about why it's important to me. You should read it here, if you want. My mother made it every Christmas season during my childhood and now we make it together!!

Tuesday was the only day we could get together - and I'll tell you, my house STILL smells good and it's Thursday morning! We worked in tandem this time, finishing in record time. Well, we would've been done in record time if on the final batches we hadn't had a small sugar snafu.

The legacy of hard tack comes from my father's mother, and I have taken the liberty of scanning in her recipe, which my mom owns. I love to look at her handwriting. She passed away when I was in 6th grade. If you decide you want to make it (which, really, you should try sometime), here is what we do in addition to/different from this recipe:

First, make sure you buy flavored OILS and not extracts. I've found them at the Dutch County Market and my mom buys them here online. Usually they are tiny bottles measured in DRAMS. Each batch uses ONE DRAM. I think the bottles you get from online are 2 drams, so we just pour in half. Just be sure to look. Typically, here are the flavors and colors we make and stir together when all the batches have been cooled in their jars:
anise - purple
peppermint - yellow
wintergreen - blue
cinnamon - red
spearmint - green
While it's getting ready to boil, make sure you stir it a lot or the sugar will burn on the bottom of the pan. Once it hits about 260 degrees, it starts heating up REALLY fast. Faster than you'd think. So watch it close. Right at 285 degree pull out the candy thermometer, (I usually slide it into a different pot), take the pot off the heat, pour in the oil , put in 12 drops of food coloring and stir and stir. Keep the pot AWAY from your face while you stir, the oil is some STRONG stuff. Seriously. I tend to walk around my house to spread the smell :)

Don't put the powdered sugar on the parchment. Put the powdered sugar in a mason jar and put the parchment on a granite baking slab that you've gotten really cold somehow. We put it outside when it's freezing, or put bags of frozen vegetables on it when it's a warm winter : ) The cold slab helps the candy to cool WAY faster. As you break apart the candy and put it in the jar, every few minutes shake up the jar to coat the candy with the sugar - that's so the pieces don't stick together.

I did a little photo essay on Tuesday:


Corinne said...

If you really do want to try this and you have questions, you can ask post it here as a comment and I'll get back to you - I am having it email me the comments :)

Jen said...

I love it when family recipes *travel* from generation to generation...I'm willing to bet that we all have a caramel or candy or cookie or bread recipe that came directly from our grandmother and reminds us of her every time. =)

I can't wait to try this!

Tori Bradford said...

I love hard tack. I just use my sucker recipe and pour it on a greased cookie sheet, but your way looks so much better. I may have to make some of this soon.

Vicky said...

I have to admit, I've never heard of this before. Is it like hard candy? What if I don't have granite slabs? What's an alternative? And can you use wax paper instead of parchment? Does the candy stick to your cutting tool? This looks like a fun treat and I'd love to try it sometime. I guess I should finally invest in a candy thermometer.

Corinne said...

Vicky - yes, it's hard candy. Truly, I wouldn't try making it without a granite slab. I bought mine at a kitchen store for $15 - they are usually called pastry boards - great for rolling out pie crust/pastry crust etc. I wouldn't use wax paper - the heat of the candy would melt the wax. Nope, the candy doesn't stick to the pizza cutter unless you start scoring (cutting) it too soon. You'll be able to tell right away that it's happening and then stop cutting and just wipe it off then wait for it to cool a bit more :)

I'm happy to answer questions!

scottandlesley said...

How cool! I love the actual recipe that you scanned in. And the photos have gotten me excited to try it!