Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Old-Fashioned Christmas Candy

When my father was 9 years old, his parents divorced and a few years later, he went to live with an uncle. Actually he lived in an old shed or barn that had a cot and an old stove to keep him warm (I’m using the word “warm” very lightly here). He had a pretty rough growing-up time. However, he would sometimes babysit his cousins and he would make homemade candy as a treat for them. He became very proficient at making fudge, caramels, taffy and other treats. They always looked forward to having him make candy for them and talk about it still today.

As a little girl growing up on the farm, we traveled to town no more than once a week to get groceries. We had milk cows and sometimes chickens; we grew potatoes, hay and wheat, raised beef cattle and had a large vegetable garden as well as a few fruit trees. We had our own milk, eggs and cream, meat, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. We seldom bought bread, cookies or any treats that weren’t homemade. It was an awesome life. We didn’t really have to depend on anyone else for our living. We never wanted for anything, though by today’s standards we didn’t have much.

One of my most fond memories was of my dad making fudge. Not the new mix-it-up-pour-it-in-the-pan-and-you’re-done kind of fudge but old fashioned cook-it-and-beat-it-till-your-arm-feels-like-it-will-fall-off kind of fudge. It was so good. I remember as a little girl, standing and watching him beat and beat the fudge and watching (not always patiently) for it to turn, then waiting for it to set up so we could cut it. We always got to lick the spoon and the pan though and there was nothing better.

As I was making a list of goodies I want to make and share with friends and neighbors this year, I began reflecting on the good times and all the good food (homemade) we had growing up and all the memories it left me with. These memories are the things that really last a lifetime. I don’t remember many gifts I got for Christmas, but I remember making fudge and other candy to give away, singing around the piano, playing games and just the time we spent together.

I started going through my old recipe box looking for recipes for what I call the “Old Fashioned Christmas Candies” and thinking about all the memories they left behind. I’m sharing those here today. If you’ve never pulled taffy with your kids or let them help you make tootsie rolls, or lick the beaters and spoons when you make divinity, you’ll find it’s worth all the mess and extra time to do it. Who knows what they’ll remember when you’re gone!

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge
3 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. butter
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. toasted chopped walnuts* (optional)
In a heavy 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat combine sugar, cocoa, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue cooking, not stirring, until mixture reaches 235° on a candy thermometer, or until it reaches soft ball stage**. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Let stand to cool for about 1 hour, until mixture comes to room temperature. With a wooden spoon, beat until fudge thickens and loses its gloss. Stir in toasted walnuts and spoon into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Cool completely then cut into 1” squares. Makes about 64 pieces. *To toast nuts, spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350° oven, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. Or, toast in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden brown and aromatic. **To Test for Soft Ball Stage: A small amount of syrup dropped into chilled water forms a ball, but is soft enough to flatten when picked up with fingers (234° to 240°).

2 ½ c. sugar
½ c. light Karo
½ c. water
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
Beat egg whites. Cook sugar, Karo and water to soft ball stage (234º) stirring ONLY until sugar dissolves. Add 1/3 of the syrup to stiff beaten whites beating at high speed while adding. Cook remaining syrup to hard ball stage (248º). Slow add to egg white mixture. Add vanilla, and mix in then beat by hand about 5 minutes or till candy holds its shape. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. If desired, add ½ c. nuts before dropping. Y: about 50

Grandma’s Mexican Fudge
3 c. sugar
1 c. milk
Pinch salt
½ cube butter
¼ c. water
1 c. nuts
Grated peel from ½ orange
Caramelize 1 c. sugar in heavy skillet. Thin and dissolve in 1 c. milk and ¼ c. water. Add remaining sugar and cook to softball stage. (240º) Add rest of ingredients. Do not stir. Cool to lukewarm (130º) and beat till creamy. Nuts may be added at the last minute.

Old Fashioned Caramels
4 1/4 c. granulated sugar
6 c. (3 pints) light cream, divided
2 1/4 c. light corn syrup
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with lightly buttered aluminum foil. Set aside. Combine sugar and 2 c. (1 pint) of the cream in a large, heavy cooking pot and cook over medium low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, cover with a lid briefly to get any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan, or wash down sides of pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the corn syrup and cook to the soft ball stage (240°) or until a small amount dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water. Add another 2 c. of cream; continue to cook and stir until the soft ball stage is reached again. Add remaining 2 c. cream; cook and stir until the soft ball stage is reached again. (Each cooking stage takes about 20 to 25 minutes and can burn easily, so keep stirring). Remove from heat and add the vanilla and pecans (if desired). Pour into prepared pan. Cool completely. Invert pan; peel off foil and cut into 1” pieces. Wrap pieces individually in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Store in covered container at room temperature. Makes about 9 dozen pieces.

Butterscotch Patties
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. granulated sugar
3 T. light Karo
3 T. heavy cream
¼ c. water
¼ c. butter
¼ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
Thoroughly combine sugars, Karo, cream and water. Cook, stirring till sugars dissolve to very hard ball stage (260º). Add butter and cook to light crack stage (270º). Remove from heat and add salt and vanilla. Drop from teaspoon to greased pan. Y: 18 -1” disks. Cool.

Chocolate Orange Sticks
1 pkg. powdered fruit pectin
½ t. soda
¾ c. cold water
1 c. light Karo
1 c. sugar
2 t. orange extract
Orange food coloring
Mix pectin, water and soda in medium saucepan until foamy. Stir sugar and Karo till well blended in large saucepan. Put both saucepans over high heat and cook, stirring alternately till the foam is gone from pectin and sugar mixture boils rapidly for about 5 minutes. Pour pectin into boiling sugar mixture in a thin stream stirring constantly for 1 minute longer. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in extract and coloring. Pour mixture immediately into buttered pan and let cool for about 8 hours or until candy cools. Cut candy into strips with a knife dipped in warm water. Dip in chocolate. For Gumdrops: omit orange flavoring and add ½ t. oil of cinnamon or cherry or any other desired flavor. Cut into ¾” squares and roll in granulated sugar.

Tootsie Rolls
1 c. honey
½ c. chocolate powder (like Nestlé’s quick)
1 c. instant powdered milk
1 t. vanilla
Cook honey to hard ball stage (255º) Remove from heat; stir in chocolate and vanilla, then add powdered milk and blend well. Pour onto greased cookie sheet until cool enough to handle. Form into balls and roll into a rope the size of a pencil. Cut into bite sized pieces and wrap in waxed paper.

Vinegar Taffy
3 c. sugar
½ c. white vinegar
2 T. butter
½ c. water
Boil till mixture turns brittle when dropped into a cup of cold water. Pour onto buttered platter. Cool and add 1 t. vanilla (white) and pull when cool enough to handle

Honey Taffy
2 c. honey
2 c. sugar
2/3 c. water
Boil to hard crack stage. Add ½ t. salt, and then remove from heat. Pour onto buttered pan. When cool enough to handle, stretch with buttered hands.

Jell-O Popcorn Balls
1 small pkg. jell-o
½ c. sugar
1 c. Karo syrup
Bring sugar & syrup to a boil. Set off heat & stir in Jell-o. Pour over warm popcorn. Covers about a gallon of popped corn.

Peanut Brittle
3 c. sugar
1 ½ c. Karo syrup
1 c. water
1 lb. raw peanuts
2 T. butter
½ t. salt
1 t. soda
1 t. vanilla
Cook sugar, Karo and water together till 232º. Stir in peanuts and cook to 312º. Remove from heat and put in butter and stir till it melts. Mix salt and soda. Add immediately with vanilla to hot mixture. Pour onto greased cookie sheet. Run a knife under it and flip it over once so peanuts aren’t on top of mixture.

Puffed Wheat Balls
12 c. puffed wheat cereal
2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. corn syrup
2 T. butter or margarine
1 c. evaporated milk
1/3 c. sugar
Place cereal in large bowl and set aside. In heavy saucepan, bring brown sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Add butter. Combine evaporated milk and sugar and add to boiling mixture and continue cooking until a soft ball forms when liquid is dropped in cold water (240º on candy thermometer.) Pour over cereal and stir to coat. Shape into 2” palls. Y: about 3 dozen.

Marshmallow Rice Puffs (Easy)
6 c. Rice puffs
50 large or 5 c. mini marshmallows
1 square butter or margarine
1 t. vanilla
Melt butter and marshmallows. Add rice puffs and let set.

Soak 2 T. Knox gelatin in ¾ c. cold water for 5 minutes. Then set over a pan of hot water to dissolve thoroughly. Boil together 2 c. sugar and ¾ c. boiling water, till it spins a thread. Pour sugar mixture over 2 beaten eggs whites beating rapidly as you pour. Beat with mixer and add 1 T. vanilla and few drops food coloring if desired. When it begins to thicken like divinity, add dissolved gelatin and beat with mixer for 20 minutes. (Best to use a Mixmaster or Kitchen aid) Wet refrigerator trays with cold water and pour mixture into trays. Let stand in fridge for 10 minutes or till firm. Cut into squares and roll in chopped nuts, cookie crumbs, powdered sugar, coconut or dip in chocolate.

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