It's a family tradition to make pounds and pounds of hard tack candy.
And, boy, do I mean POUNDS. Go big or get out of our kitchen, as Grandma Barb says.
Let me correct myself. It's the women of the family who make the hard tack. We make pounds and pounds of it to give away to family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, churches, mailmen, Santa.... If you come over to one of our houses during Christmastime, you're either snacking on it or taking a bag of it home with you.
Honestly, I don't remember a Christmas season without bowls and bowls of this powdered sugar stuff. Looking back on home videos you can see the bowls on the counters, on the end tables, Great Grandpa popping a piece in his mouth.
Oh, and the absolute best is watching someone pop what they think is their favorite flavor into their mouth only to horridly discover it is their least favorite and quickly spit it out. I have been guilty of this on several occasions, especially if I wasn't there to make it that year or can't remember the color codes. Sometimes it's just so hard to decipher those darn pieces when they are proficiently covered in powdered sugar and a crowd has formed around the bowl and you don't want to be accused of fingering every piece just to find your favorite. I know we are all victims. Sorry.
I know. You're probably suggesting we sort out all of the flavors into their own special bowls. But where's the fun in that? And, y'all, I don't have time for any extra dishes let alone have the space for a dozen cute holiday dishes. (Mr. B would kill me if I took up any more cabinet space.) Besides, it's nice when the flavors...merry, you know?
Of course, if you absolutely despise a flavor (just throwing it out there for an example, but let's say pineapple,) you don't have to put it in your batch. Just make sure you're there burning your fingers with the rest of us if you're going to make such demands, mmm'kay?
While waiting for Grandma to make the candy batches, the rest of us girls chit-chat, laugh, and try to right some disastrous event that probably happened behind Grandma's back. It's all fun and games until the scalding hot sugar hits the marble.
Then all that can be heard from the kitchen is "Owww, owww, owww!"
"My fingers. I.Can't.Feel.My.Fingers."
"I'm sure I have no more fingerprints."
[insert a few choice words]
"Oh, for crying out loud! Stop whining!" <--- usually from Grandma. (But you know, she's the one pouring the scalding hot liquid, not touching it. I guess after years and years of doing it, one eventually graduates to the coveted stirring and pouring position.)
"I swear, Brindi Michele, if you suggest doing this next year...." <---usually said by Mama. (I do believe, at this very moment, she is not joking.)
"I NEED more butter!"
I always need more butter. I can never cut fast enough. There must be a faster way. You could wait until the sugar hardens and then break it off, but that results in very, very, sharp glass-like edges. And when you toss a handful of hard candy into your mouth, that truly IS something you want to avoid.
So, apply the butter and more butter. And when you think you have enough, apply more butter on top of that butter. And cut as fast as your pretty little fingers can.... if you want to keep them pretty and the pain minimal.
Usually, we make about a dozen different flavors, everything from cherry to spearmint, from blueberry to cloves, from cinnamon to grape.
Hard candy is kind of a big deal over here.
Occasionally, we have to rope the men in. Daddy is always willing to help...as long as he gets to make a few suckers. Grandma would object, but by the time the men are called in, we'll do just about anything to get this over with. I'm quite confident one time our patience will run out and we'll just decide a big square will suffice. We'll just break pieces off and pass it around. (I'd love to see the powdered sugar mess created with that one.)
Cheers to another kitchen fiasco full of family, sugar, and brunt fingers! Oh, and
Hard Tack Candy
*ingredients for ONE regular batch
2 c granulated sugar
2/3 c light corn syrup
3/4 c water
1 t flavoring (i.e. clove, butter pecan, tropical punch, coffee, spearmint, cinnamon, cherry, lemon...)
1/2 t food coloring (and you'll want to note what color you use for each flavor)
Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to boil without stirring. When syrup temperature reaches 260 degrees, add color. Do not stir; boiling action will incorporate color into syrup. Remove from heat at 300 degrees or when drops of syrup form hard threads in cold water. After boiling ceases, stir in flavoring. Immediately pour syrup onto buttered marbled slabs or cookie sheets. CAREFULLY, using buttered scissors to prevent sticking, cut hardened syrup into bite-size candy pieces. Syrup will hardened quickly, so this needs to be fast! Toss cut pieces onto extra cookie sheet or into a big bowl. When cooled, toss candy pieces with powdered sugar to prevent sticking.
**Note: you can easily multiply this recipe to your needs, like if you need to make 25 pounds of candy :)
***I recommend not doing this alone or with small children.
I'll take my five pounds, please.
By the way, it's National Hard Candy Day!
With Love and God Bless,