December 22, 2010

Hard Tack Candy



It has been a family tradition that we make hard tack candy for Christmas.  I remember being a little girl at my Grandma's farmhouse and we would all sit around the big kitchen table pulling the candy and burning our fingers.  It just wasn't Christmas without those pretty jelly jars full of colored sugar candy.

Well....last year my mom and I decided to pass the tradition on to my children......after about 3 burned batches we finally perfected our recipe......really, it wasn't our fault, the candy thermometer was off by 20 degrees!!




The basic ingredients are very simple.....sugar, cornsyrup, water, food coloring and flavoring....we get our flavoring at a local country store....I think that the grocery store carries basic flavorings like rootbeer, cinnamon, and spearamint...



This was our recipe.....truly, I have no idea what a dram is....I just ignore things that I don't understand....




Add 2/3 light corn syrup to 2 cups of granulated sugar....add an additional 2/3 cups of water...mix it up and then put the spoon away... 



I kept wanting to mix it up....but you don't want to touch it!!


Now...a calibrated candy thermometer is crucial to the success of making candy!

        

If you notice, a candy thermometer shows the different stages that sugar passes through as it reaches different temperatures....we were taking it all the way to hard crack....even a few degrees over will result in burnt sugar candy....which is gross...speaking from experience!



Partway through our first batch, we starting thinking that our thermometers were off.....(My mom is the expert, she can put a drop of that sugary stuff in a little bit of water and know what stage it's at....)  We knew that we needed to check our thermometers because we didn't want a repeat of last year!

So how do you calibrate your thermometer????  Easy!  Boil a pan of water....your thermometer should read very near 212 degrees Farhenheit or 100 degrees Celsius....ours was off by 20 degrees.....again!!!  That would have been disasterous!!

Determine how much your thermometer is off and adjust for that.....



While you wait for your sugar to get to the hard crack stage....butter a (Goodwill purchased!) dish....



You want the dish to be heavily buttered because that keeps the candy from sticking later!


Mix up your food coloring....our first batch was rootbeer, so we wanted to make it brown. 

We used different colors for different flavors.....red is raspberry, orange is cinnamon, blue is peppermint, green is spearment....be creative.....the more colors, the prettier your jar is!



Meanwhile.....your pan of sugar is just doing it's thing.....you are not touching it and just watching the thermometer.  Don't be worried if this process takes 30 minutes or more......it takes a while for the temperature to get up around 260 degrees, but then it starts to move more quickly....


At about 260 degrees, we added to food coloring......at 300 degrees we took the pan off the heat (very important!) and added the flavoring...

It probably only takes a few minutes between 260 and 300 degrees.....it starts to move quickly!



Pour your candy onto your buttered dish.....yum....it smells so good at this point!  Rootbeer wafting through the house....




The recipe calls for you to score it and break it into pieces....but there's no danger or risk doing it that way.....


Instead....using scissors, lift the edges of the boiling hot candy and cut into pieces....all while burning off your fingertips!



The edges cool faster so you want to pull from the edges and stay away from the middle (or you'll completely lose your fingers!) 

Drop the pieces onto a cookie sheet where they have a chance to cool and harden while your family is screaming at the tv in the background....



We didn't get much help until the game was over!


We just store the candy in ziploc bags and gift it in jelly jars or whatever pretty glass container you have available....



Merry Christmas!


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