Of all the candy that is simple to make at home, the winner is rock candy. Lollipops are wonderful, too, as are bonbons and truffles, but old-fashioned rock candy is far the simplest and the most fun. I have found there are good lessons for my kids here, too. When the kids assist, they aren’t just having fun, but are also finding out what goes into candy and how it is made.
Here is an uncomplicated and virtually foolproof
starter recipe on how to make rock candy at home
Begin with a light weight tied to one end of a length of cotton string to weigh it down and ascertain it hangs straight when suspended. Don’t use “split-shot” from the fishing tackle box, as those are made of lead. Use a paper clip, or something equivalent, instead. Knot one end of the string to the middle of a pencil, so that when the pencil is set over the opening of a jar, the thread ends roughly an inch from the bottom.
Set up the string by wetting it and rolling it in some granulated sugar before setting it aside to dry. This will give the rock candy crystals a head-start by providing a base layer for their formation. Alternately, use paper swizzle sticks (like lollipop sticks) to make a handle you can hold; making it easy to stir sugar into your coffee or tea, or just hold like a lollipop (the pictures on this page use similar sticks); prepare the stick the same way.
Make the sugar syrup. You can without difficulty concoct the sugar solution by adding 2 cups granulated sugar for each 1 cup of water and slowly bringing the syrup to a boil. If you have a candy thermometer make sure the temperature reads 265 degrees Fahrenheit, if you don’t, boil for roughly two to three minutes until all the sugar is wholly dissolved. If your kids are learning how to make rock candy at home with you, be wary! Hot sugar syrup requires caution and careful handling. At this stage you can transfer the pot from the burner and add flavoring such as peppermint or lemon extracts, and a little food coloring if you wish. Stir them in efficiently.
Now that the syrup is prepared, gently pour it in your jar. Lower the string you prepared earlier into the jar and cover it all with a towel. If you are using sticks, secure them vertically in the jar with clothes pins.
After 2 or 3 hours the solution will cool sufficiently for the sugar to start to crystallize on the string or stick. For the next couple of days you can watch its growth and remove it from the jar when you like the size. Be sure it doesn’t get so immense it won’t come out! That’s pretty simple, right?
Here is a simple video showing the basic steps:
Another Easy Hard Candy
If knowing how to make rock candy at home seems easy, another hard candy that is pretty effortless is the “lowly lollipop.” Use 1 cup of water, 3-1/2 cups granulated sugar, and 1-1/2 cups corn syrup. Put them all together in a saucepan over medium heat (never use high heat when dissolving sugar syrups!), constantly and carefully stirring, until you see the sugar is dissolving. This is a good task for a helping child, stirring and watching for sugar dissolution. Bring to a boil, and then, without stirring, let it rise to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. A candy thermometer is necessary for this procedure.
As with the rock candy, you will transfer the syrup away from the burner to introduce your coloring and flavor extract rapidly, but without stirring too much (small bubbles or poor texture can ensue from over-stirring). The timing is fairly critical at this point, so be certain whatever flavor and coloring you want to use are set and ready for the instant your syrup comes off the burner.
As you pour the lollipop mixture into the molds, use care as hot sugar solution burns hurt a lot, and insert the lollipop sticks into the mold. Let it set until it becomes cool to the touch indicating they are ready. Removing the lollies from the mold by picking it up and tapping on it is uncomplicated; be sure to provide a nice landing area for them like a dishtowel under a piece of waxed paper. Here’s where the kids can really aid completing the lollies with cellophane wrapping. Try different colors and labeling for different candy, making them distinctive to attract attention. You might even craft a “house logo” to put on your wrappers!
After you have learned how to make rock candy at home, you will find the sole secret to creating perfect hard candy is using the candy thermometer correctly. Trust your candy thermometer to deliver the right results when you follow the recipe to a “T” so, if a recipe calls for a particular temperature, boil the syrup until you are there before proceeding. If you’d like to deal with a messy mass of gooey garbage, try stopping too soon or going over temperature for too long!
When mixing, only stir as much as needed or chance over-stirring and causing poor outcomes, as well. These steps are vital to success: Read the thermometer exactly and hang on for the right temperature, then add flavor and coloring quickly and stir them in rapidly and smoothly for the most desirable results.
With candy making as with many other things, novices should begin with undemanding recipes to build your skills, and as you move to more involved recipes, your abilities will evolve, too. You can progress from how to make rock candy at home to making a large variety of great treats for all occasions. Reward yourself by not eating too many of your own creations, as good as they are! Try some coffee brewed with Folgers K Cups for a surprising treat, instead.
So, good candy comes from doing these things carefully and properly to ensure good results and master a few skills, and then you will move up, concocting ever more complex and delicious treats from your kitchen. Just remember to have fun and enjoy the process; that’s why you started this project, after all!
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