Monday, December 20, 2010

Homemade Candy Canes

My DD enjoys working in the kitchen. Which I think is wonderful. Everyday she is learning life skills that will someday bless her own family. As we were making items to take to the family Christmas gathering the other day, she remembered that we use to make Candy Canes when she was littler. She asked if we could make them again. Sure, why not.

So we gathered the ingredients and began. As she started cooking and watching the candy thermometer she asked, "Mom, what is the story behind the Candy Cane? I know it has something to do with Jesus and a Shepard." She is right it does have something to do with those and more.

A candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would remind people of the true meaning of Christmas; so he made the candy cane to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and the firmness of the promises of God.
The candymaker then shaped his cane into the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to the earth as Savior. It could also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches down to to reclaim the fallen lambs who, like sheep, have gone astray.
Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.
We shared and talked about the Candy Cane story as we prepared our own Homemade Candy Canes. Now this candy is no "walk in the park". The pulling process is quite intense and HOT. We both wore latex gloves and kept switching off during the "pulling", because our hands and fingers would get so hot from the "molten" sugar syrup. But, we did it and we have a final product.

Now please don't be a critic and say, "They don't look anything like the store kind." True, they don't look like them. But I tell you what, if you tasted one you would like them so much better that the commercial variety. Maybe it is because of the lack of preservatives and chemicals, but I like to think it is due to the LOVE and TIME put into them. They aren't perfect but they taste good.

Candy Canes

3 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Red food coloring
latex gloves

Generously grease several cookie sheets with butter or oil. You will need at least 3 or use platters. (DO NOT use anything plastic. This stuff will melt through it until it cools down.)  Preheat your oven to the lowest temp you have 150 to 200 degrees.

Combine the sugar, syrup and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Begin heating the mixture up on medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Place candy thermometer into mixture, raise heat just a little and let it get to the soft-cracked stage, 285 degrees F. NOTE: this stuff is extremely hot and will cause severe burns, so please be very careful especially if you have little ones around watching.

When the temperature is reached remove from the heat. Add the extract and stir in. Pour half the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and place in the oven. This will keep the mixture from hardening on you. Now add several drops of the red coloring and mix well. Pour the red mixture onto a greased marble cutting board (this works the best) a heat-safe cutting board or large heat-proof platter, just make sure it is greased well.

Let it set just a minute to for a "skin". Put on gloves and grease them up with butter or oil. Using a greased scrapper or the edge of a large metal spatula begin to turn the candy onto itself. This will help it cool down faster. Once, it gets cool enough for you to handle (it still will be hot) begin pulling. Take the candy in both hands and pull the hands in opposite directions, stretching the candy into a long rope. Bring the ends of the strands together and twist the candy into a rope, then pull the rope out into a long strand. Continue to twist and pull the candy until it has a satin-like finish and is an opaque red color. Once the candy is still pliable but barely warm, pull it into a strand about 2” thick, and place it on the remaining prepared baking sheet. Put this sheet back into the oven, turn off the heat, and remove the baking sheet with the other half of the candy syrup. The pulled candy will remaining pliable in the warm oven while you work the second portion.

Remove the other cookie sheet of candy and repeat the process. At the end, the candy should be a pearly white color. Form it into a log 2” in diameter, just like the red candy. 

Remove the red candy from the oven. Cut a 4-inch segment from the white and the red log, and place them next to each other. Begin to pull the candies together, twisting gradually to form the familiar candy stripes. Once the twisted candy is the thickness you want, use oiled kitchen shears to cut them to approximately 8” lengths. Immediately form the hook at the top of the cane, and place it on a baking sheet to set at room temperature.

Repeat the twisting with the remaining candy. If the candy gets too hard to pull, place it in the warm oven for a few minutes to soften, but don’t let it sit too long and melt. The candy canes will get very hard at room temperature, but if left out for long periods of time they will get soft and sticky, so be sure to wrap them in cellophane once they are set.

I told you it was a process, but one that is gratifying. Knowing that you can make it. DD did a wonderful job. She stuck right in there until the end. But now that I think about it....Where was she when the "Clean-up" started....It seems like every time it time to start the dishes everyone disappears...Does that happen at your house too?



Rachelle said...

Wow! I was proud of myself for making toffee. This, this seems impossible! Thanks for sharing. Maybe one day I will be brave like you! ;)

Serina said...

Rachelle - not impossible or we couldn't have done it. Just is a little intense. You can do it....I believe in you!

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