As a young bride, I received the bestest gift in the world.
I was thrilled because even though I’d cooked most of my life,
I wasn’t a great cook. I wasn’t even a good cook.
Back then, I’d marvel at other women’s cookbooks, with their wrinkled, splattered pages, and marvel at the longevity of their marriages and their culinary skills.
Now I know the truth, a splattered, tattered cookbook doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good cook.
It could just mean you’ve spilled a lot on your cookbook.
One thing I have mastered is candy making. I don’t make a variety, but I can make
hard candy, caramel, and fudge. I also dip a lot of junk in chocolate and white chocolate. But, now that I’m thinking about it, I guess that doesn’t really make me a master candy maker.
But, I do know the stages of candy making.
When we were kids, my little brother Allan was always the adventurer, the one to figure out stuff. In a clearance bin at the Capital Hill Mall in Helena, MT, he found a little vial of apricot flavoring. He was told it was flavoring for homemade candy.
He figured the $.25 to buy the flavoring to make a batch of candy, would give him a higher yield than buying $.25 worth of candy.
So, he opened my mom’s cookbook, found a recipe and made apricot hard candy.
We’ve been making hard candy ever since.
I diligently typed this out with an old fashioned typewriter I musta’ borrowed and glued it on the very back page.
I’ve trusted this chart over any candy thermometer I ever purchased.
Here’s a great website that explains how to do the cold water candy test.
They recommend using a candy thermometer and the cold water test while you’re making candy.
Candy making is simple. You boil a sugar mixture until it’s the right stage.
Then you eat it.
Icing or glaze is cooked to thread stage.
Fudge is cooked to soft ball stage.
Divinity is cooked to firm ball stage.
Caramel is cooked to hard ball stage.
Toffee and salt water taffy are cooked to soft crack stage.
Lollipops and peanut brittle are cooked to hard crack stage.
The longer you cook it, the harder it gets.
Ma Ingalls made molasses candy for her kids. I can imagine her dropping little bits of the candy into a bowl of cold water, explaining the stages to her girls. I
can also imagine their impatience. It takes a LONG time to make candy.
We found the recipe for Snow Candy on a website by HarperCollins for Children.
They have a lot of valuable resources for Little House on the Prairie series,
including the recipes, quizzes, teacher resources and biographies.
Since I am such an expert candy maker, I thought this would be a cinch.
How hard could it be? Two ingredients, a kettle, something to stir with and some snow.
That’s right. I needed snow. The sun was shining, I was dreaming about sun bathing, but I needed snow.
I live in a place, FINALLY, after decades in North Dakota, where there is almost no snow.
Since I grew up with the survivalist mentality of Make-Do-or-Do-Without, I knew I could conquer this.
With our little Igloo, we made snow.
With my cookbook propped open to teach Rebekah the candy stages, we began our Candy Making Quest.
However, as soon as she dumped in the two ingredients, she bailed.
She was playing Bananagrams on the dining room table, ”because I’m practicing Spelling, Mom.”
I was going to say something, then realized we were really following Little House protocol.
Ma made the candy, the kids waited impatiently.
So, with all the pioneer spirit I could muster, I stirred and stirred and stirred, calling her over when I was dropping stuff in the water.
Then I stirred some more.
Notice how cleverly I magneted the recipe to my stove?
Notice how I didn’t clean off the counters for that perfect blog picture?
Notice the double chin I don’t know how to Photoshop off?
Yea, so this is the real deal, here folks.
No “I have the perfect life” fake bloggy stuff for me.
If ya’ happen to be stirring and stirring, and your rubber spatula is getting smaller and smaller, ya’ better take out a wooden spoon to stir until you can go out and buy a new spatula.
Candy making is challenging on those things, and I have the proud claim to fame that I’ve melted a Pampered Chef spatula while making candy. This one is from one of those expensive cooking stores.
Remember my bragging about my candy making skills? This thick stuff was hard to test.
At the end I wait for the candy to speak to me, because when it’s at the hard crack stage it will literally crack in the water. I usually yell at the kids, “Be quiet! Be quiet! I can’t hear my candy!”
The molasses candy wasn’t cracking a lot, but it was starting to smell burnt.
We pulled it off the burner and tried swirling designs on our “snow” like Laura and Mary.
Yea, so big deal. No fancy designs that would be worth writing about in my memoire.
I poured the rest in a buttered pan. As it cooled, we began playing with it.
OK, so we had a few shining moments. The ribbon candy is kinda’ cute.
Just don’t leave your utensils in the pan with the candy, like I did.
How did it taste, you wonder?
If you like molasses, you would like this candy. If you hadn’t had sugar or sweets for a year, like Laura and Mary who are thrilled to get one piece of candy on the rare occasion Pa goes to town, you would like this candy.
But, if you’ve eaten Laffy Taffy or a Jolly Rancher, you’ll be thankful you weren’t a pioneer child.
So, to not leave you hanging on the verge of disappointment, I’m gunna’ give ya’ a freebie.
My favorite candy recipe.
It’s amazing. I always thought it was interesting that there is no added flavoring, but it really is butterscotch.
It’s delicious, I promise.
And it will REALLY make you thankful you aren’t a pioneer kid
who’d never seen a town and had to be content crunching on molasses candy.