Thursday, September 3, 2009

Exiled No More: Hot Spicy Candy

The Midatlantic section of The County Fair Cookbook has more than its fair share of interesting-looking recipes. It made selecting just one very difficult. Finally, I got it narrowed down to Wickham Family Pickled Cherries, or Hot Spicy Candy. The candy won out, mostly because the recipe is longer, and, well, I'm a fool for candy, and the method seems less prone to error than others. If you've a hankering for easy preserving of sour cherries, however, drop a comment, and I'll post the cherries.

The Sussex County Farm & Horse Show takes place the first week of August, most years, in Augusta, New Jersey. It's one of the larger fairs in the Northeast, evidently. Jane Brodhecker raises lambs, and though I love me some lamb, it's her candy recipe that makes me go "ooo."
Hot Spicy Candy
"The recipe comes from my Indiana grandmother," says Jane. "We made this candy with our children, and now they make it with theirs. Before Christmas everybody comes to the farm and we make batches together in several flavors. We use red coloring for cinnamon candy, black for anise, and purple for spearmint. Then we mix them and put them in airtight containers for gifts. The procedure sounds complicated, but making this candy is really simple." Flavored oils -- cinnamon, anise, wintergreen and others -- can be found at many pharmacies and sometimes at specialty food shops. Intense fruit flavorings are good, too. Paste coloring agents are sold at bakers' supplies stores and craft shops.

Makes about 4 cups

3 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 cup water
Paste or liquid pure food coloring
1 dram (scant teaspoon) oil of cinnamon, clove or peppermint, or fruit flavoring
2 pounds confectioners' sugar (see Note

1. Place the sugar, syrup and water in a large saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil, with a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pan. Heat the mixture to exactly 290 degrees. (This will take 15 to 20 minutes.) Higher, the candy sets too hard; short of 290, it won't set up. Remove from the heat and add the desired color. Paste colors are intense; a dab on a toothpick should give a deep color. Be careful with liquid colors -- too much may dilute the candy mixture and impede setting.
2. Stir in the oil flavoring. Stand back! The mixture steams up and releases strong fumes.
3. Have ready 3 jelly roll pans on which you have places a 3/4-inch-thick fluffy layer of confectioners' sugar. With a finger, trace a large spiral trough in each pan.
4. Carefully pour the liquid into the troughs -- the little walls of confectioners' sugar keep it from spreading. When the candy has hardened and is cool enough to touch -- a matter of minutes -- take scissors and snip it into short pieces, or snap off pieces with your fingers. Roll them in the sugar. Sealed in containers, the candy lasts for months.
NOTE: You can reuse the confectioners' sugar. Between candy-making bouts, store the sugar in a self-sealing plastic bag.
...damn, that DOES sound easy! And far less apt to leave you with hard candy that tastes either of butter or vegetable oil, which always happens to me when I try to make lollipops and I have to grease the molds...

I wonder a bit at the order of the steps, and suggest that you make sure you do the prep for step 3 before you get anything else going. At least do it well before you've got a pot of fully molten sugar and oil ready.

I love old fashioned candy flavors. When I was in Salem, Massachusetts, I practically ran to Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie to stock up on anise and clove candies. I'll admit: most people I know don't care for anise or clove candy. Poor souls! The spiciness combines with the sweet? Delightful! So much more interesting than sweet-on-sweet. Then again, I also love licorice (especially salted licorice), and absinthe, so I may just be a weirdo. And fennel! Love fennel.

After my buttered lollies failures, I'd pretty much sworn off hard candy making. The sugar trough method may bring me back from my candy land exile.

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