How to Make Candy

Kids Learning How to Make Candy Illustration 1919Children Learning How to Make Candy
(PD Source: Karo Display ca. 1919)

You can learn how to make candy the old fashioned way by using Grandma's  easy method. As the kids in the above illustration demonstrate, there's really no secret involved in making creamy-smooth, melt-in-your-mouth candy, you need only a bit of know-how and practice.

When it comes to the basics of candy making, simply follow the old fashioned candy recipes and carefully tend to the mixture while it cooks. Making delicious homemade candy is not difficult and once learned, you'll never forget how. On this page, you'll find all the know-how you need to get started.


How to Make Candy Like Grandma's

  • First, mix the ingredients in the saucepan before you begin to heat it. Then, stir the mixture over medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Be careful not to let the sugar burn and do not let it crystallize in the bottom of the saucepan.

  • Always stir slowly so the sugar mixture doesn't splash onto the sides of the saucepan. If it does, it will crystallize, and any crystals that form on the sides of the saucepan must be wiped off using a cloth or a sponge dampened with cold water. Some cooks prefer using a damp pastry brush, as it will provide a long, safe handle.

  • Never cover the saucepan with a lid, as this will increase the risk of the mixture boiling over, especially if it contains milk or cream. Grandma always recommended greasing the inside rim of the saucepan with a light, one-inch band of butter to help prevent it boiling over — it really does work.

  • Always be ready to reduce the heat if the sugar mixture starts to boil over and never walk away and leave a pot of candy boiling on the stove; it could catch fire!

  • Watch your cooking temperature very closely; it can rise quite quickly sometimes, and when it reaches the hard ball stage, about 248°F (120°C), it can rise quite dramatically.

  • Beginners learning how to make candy sometimes get impatient and try to rush the process by turning up the heat. Resist doing so.

  • It's much better to cook candy slowly at a medium heat, as this will ensure that all the ingredients are thoroughly melted, which makes for smoother results.

  • Once the mixture begins to thicken, frequently check its temperature stage or test it using the cold water test that's described below. Monitor candy temperatures closely when learning how to make candy.

  • When the mixture tests ready, take it off the heat at once and prepare to pour the finished candy onto a buttered tray to cool.

  • If you should happen to boil the candy mixture too much, you can always try adding some water, then simply stir the candy mixture and carefully reheat until it has reached its stage of doneness.

Candy Temperature Stages

Once you make homemade candy a few times, you'll find it easy to identify the various "stages" of doneness. Some cooks can do it by sight, but nothing beats the old fashioned cold water test that Grandma used. I absolutely recommend it for anyone practicing how to make candy.

And even if you already know how to make candy, the cold water test is often more accurate and easier than fiddling with a large candy thermometer clipped onto the side of the pot.

Traditional European candy makers often test the syrup's doneness using their bare hands. It seems that they will first dip their thumb and forefinger deep into ice-cold water for a few moments, then into the boiling syrup, and then back into the ice water. It's done very quickly in one fluid motion while observing the syrup mixture.

I recently read that Julia Child, the well-known American cookbook author and television chef, used this traditional barehanded method of testing candy, but I have no inclination to imitate her nor do I recommend you doing so.

DO NOT try it!

There's nothing worse than being burned by boiling sugar. Believe me, for I speak from experience!

Be safe! Use either the cold water test or a proper candy thermometer.

The Cold Water Method of Candy Testing

Testing candy for doneness is easy with cold water. Prepare by choosing a cup with a lightly colored interior, as it is easiest to see the syrup against a light background. Fill the cup 3/4 full of ice-cold water. Then, take about 1/2 teaspoonful of hot candy mixture and drop it in the cold water.

Watch carefully how the syrup reacts to the cold water. Does it separate or hold its shape? Next, pour out some of the water and gently insert your finger and thumb to feel the syrup's firmness and texture to determine its boiling stage.

In seventeenth-century France, the royal confectioners recognized twelve different stages in candying sugar or in cooking it to its proper "height" as they called it. English cooks recognized fewer stages through which sugar passes in candy making, often listing as few as five.

To help you, I've compiled nine stages in candy testing so you can better identify the stages of sugar boiling mentioned in the old fashioned candy recipes.

With a little practice, you'll soon be able to recognize the candy testing stages by sight and know exactly when the candy is done. Always test; that was Grandma's secret of knowing how to make candy that turns out perfect every time.

Here are the nine (9) stages mentioned in candy recipes:

The Thread

The mixture can be dropped from a spoon to spin a thin, wispy thread.

The Pearl

The hot syrup forms small pearl-like bubbles. According to one seventeenth-century source, "It will stand on a stiffe purle when you drop some of it upon a Plate of silver."

The Blow

The traditional method was to dip a spoon with holes into the hot syrup and immediately strike the side of the spoon on the edge of the saucepan. If bubbles form on the opposite side when you blow through the holes, you have reached the blow stage.

The Feather

The traditional method was to dip a spoon with holes into the hot syrup and shake it to release some of the syrup. If the syrup hangs in thin strings or flies in flakes from the spoon, you have reached the feather stage. A fork can also be used.

The Soft Ball

Drop a small amount of syrup into ice-cold water. You have reached the soft ball stage if you can roll it between your fingers and thumb to form a soft, non-sticky ball that barely holds its shape.

The syrup should form a round, flat mass in the bottom of the cup at the beginning of this stage, so if it appears runny and gelatinous it's not ready.

The Hard Ball

Drop a small amount of syrup into ice-cold water. You have reached the hard ball stage if you can roll it between your fingers and thumb to form a moldable but not completely rigid ball.

The syrup should solidify or form a standing thread the moment it hits the water.

Small Crack

Drop a small amount of syrup into ice-cold water. You have reached the small crack stage if it can be easily pulled and stretched between your fingers.

Hard Crack

Drop a small amount of syrup into ice-cold water. You have reached the hard crack stage if it breaks easily between your fingers or if it resists being made into a ball.

Caramel

The sugar begins to brown very quickly and soon turns to black and gives off a burnt odor. Sugar will burn beyond this stage.

Temperatures for Sugar Boiling Stages

If you're learning how to make candy and find it more comfortable to use a modern candy thermometer when testing the boiling syrup, here are eleven candy temperature stages given in degrees Fahrenheit as taught by Fannie Farmer, famed instructor at the Boston Cooking School, in the 1890s:

Small Thread (once called manus christi height) = 215°F

Large Thread = 217°F

Pearl = 220°F (once called candy height)

Large Pearl = 222°F

The Blow = 230°F

The Feather (or Plume) = 232°F

Soft Ball = 238°F

Hard Ball = 248°F

Small Crack = 290°F

Hard Crack = 310°F

Caramel = 350°F (some candy books list 338°F)

Summary of How to Make Candy

How do you make good candy? Simply by following the old fashioned candy recipes and by applying the practical tips on how to test the syrup in cold water. Do this, and you'll soon be making candy like the pros.

Don't be discouraged by your first attempt. Candy making is an art that comes easily with practice. Why not practice by making a plateful now? Soon, you'll be showing others how to make candy at home the old fashioned way.


You May Also Like

Homemade Candy Recipes






Custom Search



Enjoy a Laugh to Brighten Your Day!

Abbott and Costello

Listen to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's "Who's On First?" skit from the World War 2 Special Services Division V-Disk.

(5: 54 min.)


Comments

Have your say! Leave a friendly comment about Grandma's old fashioned desserts in the box below. (No links or promotion please.)


Like This Page? Please Share It




Visit the Homemade Dessert Recipes Home Page

Old Fashioned Rose Cookbook Icon

Donald Bell is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you make a purchase through a link on this page, I may receive a small commission to help support this site — at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Don Bell with Old Fashioned Recipes

Please click the Like button above and help me preserve Grandma's old fashioned recipes in their original form.


Need Help?

Puzzled about old time oven temperatures and measurement units? Click the Button below for helpful conversions.

Help Button Icon

Mystery Quiz

Mystery Item

What is this antique item? The Answer is found below.


Recent Articles

  1. Bake Homemade Pie Pops Today

    Make your own flaky, golden pie pops and surprise your friends and family with a truly yummy dessert treat that's easy to make and fun to serve.

    Read More

  2. Vintage Dessert Cake Recipes

    You will love these old fashioned dessert cake recipes for when you want to serve something that's proven to be delicious and different.

    Read More

  3. Basic Homemade Cake Recipe with 12 Variations

    You'll love this basic homemade cake recipe with simple variations for making up to 12 vintage dessert cakes.

    Read More

  4. Straight Soda Recipes from the Vintage Soda Fountain

    Use these authentic straight soda recipes to make old time soda fountain beverages that are totally refreshing and delicious.

    Read More

  5. Vintage Ice Cream Shake Recipes

    These authentic ice cream shake recipes will remind you of the old soda fountain at the local diner. Make rich, frothy shakes in the flavor of your choice.

    Read More


Favorite
Topics


Quiz Answer

Grandma's button hooks for  fastening tight buttons on leather boots and gloves.