Simple clear toy candy recipe makes for great memories
Tom Hourt and his family reawakened memories of clear toy candy as they demonstrated its creation at a recent Palmerton Area Historical Society meeting.
His wife, Jodie, and son, Mitchell, are integral parts of the candy-making business, which begins each year with the call of, “It’s candy weather.” The air must be cold and dry.
Clear toy candy-making is a long-standing Christmas tradition and is demonstrated at the Pennsylvania German Center at Kutztown University. Much of the history Hourt has collected comes from confectioners in Philadelphia. The history begins with the mid-1800 German settlers. Kris Kringle is said to have brought fruits, nuts and clear toy candy at Christmas. Children would play with the candy as toys, wash them off and eat them.
Hourt got his start from the book “Clear Toy Candy” by Nancy Fasolt he found in a cake and candy emporium in 2003.
“My mother-in-law was a big part of getting me into this,” Hourt said.
The recipe is simple: 3 cups cane sugar, 1 cup water and 1 cup corn syrup. That is not the original recipe because at that time, corn syrup had not been developed. Cream of tartar, an acid from wine making, was used. This interfering agent prevents the sugar from crystallizing. The syrup should have 42-percent dextrose. Hourt prefers using sugar from the Dutch Valley Food Distributors.
A candy pot has a pouring spout. A copper pot is best because it conducts the heat more evenly. Pewter pots were used, but cast iron has been popular since the 1850s.
The clear toy candy can be made only around Christmas as humidity prevents it from hardening during other times of the year.
Hourt was asked about using barley water, which changes the taste slightly by giving it a more malty taste. What was known as barley sugar was really beet sugar, something Hourt has never used.
Extra-virgin olive oil is the best for oiling the molds before the candy is poured. Mitchell demonstrated oiling the molds with a brush, so all corners are reached. Before olive oil, lard was used.
Original molds were made by sculptors. Hourt’s favorite is a camel with a monkey on its back.
The second batch of candy is best because the molds are warm. When the candy is taken from the mold, Jodie puts on gloves and removes the rough edges with a file. She said you get to know the molds and where they are apt to be rough.
“Nothing gets out of my kitchen that is sharp,” she said.
Directions indicate to not stir the candy as it is heating to 300 degrees, but Hourt did several times. Each time, he mentioned you are not supposed to stir it, but it helps get the heat even throughout.
Flavorings and more colors are now used. Mitchell said the tangerine and root beer make the whole house smell nice. Hourt learned the hard way to be careful when adding cinnamon because it exploded upward and burned his face.
Jodie said he ordered 12,000 sticks for lollipops and thought it was a joke, so now she frequently asks, “Do we need more sticks?”
The candy has to be stiff enough to hold the sticks upright, which does not take long. She and Mitchell were adding sticks when Hourt was still pouring.
Silicone molds are available now, but the candy is not as clear as with the metal. If kept cold, the candy has been known to remain good for up to 20 years.
People were given one of the small lollipops and could buy any of the others for a donation to the historical society.
Shane Confectionery, shanecandies.com, offers candy, molds and history. Tours are available Fridays.