Aunt Marcey’s Old Fashioned Hard Tack Candy

I always know that Christmas is drawing near when my sister Marcey gets into old fashioned hard tack candy mode.

She is an old fashioned hard tack candy making guru.

For as long as I can remember in the weeks leading up to Christmas, she has been like a mad scientist in her kitchen whirling around clanking cookie sheets, gathering dozens of tiny glass viles filed with a plethora of scented oils and flavorings. There are pounds of sugar, bottles of corn syrup and did I mention hammers and screw drivers?

Yes, I said hammers and screw drivers.

This year we decided to make it a family affair. My mom, my girls and I got together for a hard tack candy making extravaganza. I am now armed with pounds of colorful, brilliantly flavored candy that I have divided into sweet little Ball glass jelly jars to give as Christmas treats and hostess gifts. Thought you might like to do the same.

Here’s the skinny on how we like to make it.

You’ll need food coloring and scented vials (or drams) of oils and flavorings.

You can find them in your baking isle (some stores still keep them in the pharmacy like they did in the old fashioned days).

I just love these little vials. Aren’t they sweet?

My sister hoards them like they’re going out of style.

O.k. she shares them but she collects them all year round to insure that she’ll have enough of her favorite flavors.

There are two different types of candy & baking flavorings. There are *oils* and there are *flavorings*. We have found that you’ll need 2 of the flavoring vials and 1 of the oil vials in each batch. (With the exception of lemon…you’ll want to use 2 lemon oil vials to ensure the proper lemon-y tongue tantalizing zing).

Once you’ve got all of your flavorings and colorings in a row you’re ready to make your first batch! Remember  how I mentioned my sister being a mad scientist? While I jest…it isn’t too far from the truth. Making this candy IS a science. Which to be honest makes me break out into a cold sweat. So I’ve kidnapped my sister and all of her years-of-candy-making-trial-and-error-wisdom to help me write this post.

Grab a saucepan, a wooden spoon (not a plastic spoon) and set the stove to medium heat.

You’ll begin by pouring sugar,

light corn syrup,

and water into a pan. Next attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pan and make sure that it isn’t touching the bottom.

Stir constantly until all of the sugar has dissolved. Takes about 15 minutes so make sure you’re fully caffeinated before you begin.

Once sugar is completely dissolved set your spoon down and let the heat take over.

Allow mixture to come to a boil. It should look like this…

A happy rolling boil.

Watch the candy thermometer as the mixture continues to boil,

until it reaches 260°.

Then the excitement begins! Time to add some color and pizzaz.

 

Add one teaspoon of food coloring to the boiling pot.

Again, don’t mix with a spoon.

Let the boiling do the mixing.

Now you’ll want to pay very close attention to the temperature.

The minute you see it reach 300° it’s time to take it off the heat, (some people test the candy mixture consistency in cold water to see if it’s ready but we just go by the candy thermometer).

Now grab the flavoring or oil that you want the candy to taste like. My girls wanted to confuse the taste buds of our recipients so they mixed up the color/flavor combinations. (Yes, our lemon flavor was red).

Allow the mixture to stop boiling before adding the flavoring. Note: My sister has learned that it is imperative at this point in time to carry the pot outside before adding the flavoring to the candy mixture because it will smoke profusely (and smell divine) but be careful not to inhale the vapors. Back in college my sister’s dear friend and candy making cohort went into a full blown asthma attack AND they set off the smoke alarm. Not exactly the way they wanted to spend the day. *Hi Amy!*

Once outside add the flavoring and stir.

Isn’t that purdy?

It’s a good idea to divide and conquer while making this sweet treat. Time is everything and remember it’s a science.

While someone is mixing in the flavoring, if possible, have someone else spray the pans with cooking spray or spray them yourself beforehand so that they are ready to go. You don’t want the candy to harden in the pot.

My sister uses non-stick pots and pans for her candy making and she has found that 9 x12 cake pans work the best.

Note: You may want to use old pots and pans or buy some inexpensive ones because they do take a beating.

So quickly pour the mixture into the cake pans.

Dividing the batch into 2 cake pans insures the right thickness for your candy-eating-enjoyment.

Let the candy sit until it is completely cool on the counter top (not the fridge), to ensure that you will get a hard crack not a sticky crack.

This is where the hammer and screwdriver come in. One of my sister’s expert tips – THIS is the very best candy breaking technique and it’s FUN TOO!

Grab a clean screw driver and hammer. Take the pans of candy back outside, (trust me on this) and place the screw driver in the center of a pan…

Give it a whack!

This is very therapeutic and gratifying. Feel free to wear safety goggles for the full mad-scientist effect. Just a thought.

Continue whacking until you’ve got as many pieces as you see fit.

You will have a few flying pieces but it’s worth it.

You may need to take a little break from time to time and do a little bonding.

Nana and her granddaughters. *sniff*

Check out this gorgeous sheet of molten sugar.

Is that nifty or what?

Don’t these look like little emeralds? Seriously. I may just have to make some jewelry out of them…

but I’ll have to remember not to wear them when it’s raining.

Ignore me.

So the next step is the cerimonial coating of the candy with powdered sugar  Once again my sister has a very specific technique for this.

Grab a gallon plastic bag that zips. Vedy important. Zips and stays zipped. Write the flavor of the candy on the bag. Especially if you’ve mixed up the flavor to color combination.

Sprinkle in a heaping tablespoon, no more than a heaping tablespoon, of powdered sugar.

Then pour the broken pieces of candy into the bag.

Make sure to leave the teenie tiny pieces behind. They get sticky and messy and almost sandlike. Totally takes away from the beauty of the candy and its magical glass-like effect.

I’m sure that Chihuly would agree.

Gently roll the bag around with the bag zipped,

until you’ve got an even coating of powdered sugar on all of the pieces.

Don’t you just want to reach in and grab a handful?

Can you guess what flavor this is?

Cinnamon! HA! And it’s SO YUMMY!

I must admit that this candy making business is really enjoyable once you know what you’re doing. The flavors burst, the colors are gorgeous and it really is some great old fashioned fun.

Hope you give it a try.

Wishing you and yours a Christmas full of sweet memories!

~Wenderly

Old Fashioned Hard Tack Candy

LorAnn Gourmet Flavoring Recipe
(makes one batch)

Here’s what you’ll need:

3 3/4 sugar cups
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 cup water
1 teaspoon food coloring

Don’t forget: There are *oils* and there are *flavorings*. We have found that you’ll need 2 bottles if you’re using the flavorings and 1 bottle if you’re using the oils in each batch. (One or the other, not both). 

Here’s what you’ll do:

In a 3 quart non-stick sauce pan, pour in sugar, light corn syrup and water. Continuously stir liquid over medium heat until sugar has completely dissolved. Let mixture come to a boil, without stirring, and when candy thermometer reaches 260° add food coloring. Once again don’t stir let food coloring mix itself into the liquid by the boiling motion.Watch the candy thermometer, once it reaches 300° immediately remove from heat and allow the boiling to come to a stop.

Take pan outside and add your choice of flavorings (or oil) to the mixture. Stir without inhaling the potent vapors. Quickly pour into 2 greased cake pans, divide liquid equally into the pans. Let cool completely to the touch.

Once candy is cooled, take outside and insert a clean phillips head screw driver into the center of the pan and give a good whack. Continue until all of the candy is broken to your liking.

Next, grab a gallon plastic bag that zips closed. Pour a heaping (no more) tablespoon of powdered sugar into the bag. Pour both cake pans of broken candy into bag and zip closed. Make sure to leave the tiny pieces out. Gently turn and flip the bag until the candy is covered with powdered sugar. Candy will stay nice and crunchy when stored in a container that is airtight.

Helpful hint: For clean-up ease, soak your pots and pans in hot soapy water to dissolve the candy because we have found that scrubbing doesn’t work.

ENJOY!

 

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106 Comments

  1. Trellowyn
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Yay for hard candy! I love making this stuff. We’ve made cinnamon hard candy this way for years. That whole take the mix outdoors before you add the essential oils is VITAL. My husband gave me a cinnamon oil facial one year because he turned a fan on just as I was adding the oil. Some of it vaporized, got into pores of my skin and my face peeled for a week. It was awful. Only happened once though. And he is banned from my kitchen during candy making now.

    Lorann is wonderful for flavored oils. Walmarts usually have a small hanging display of 2 packs of the 1 dram bottles in the months leading up to Christmas. You can also find flavors you didn’t even dream of year round at confection supply shops. And yes, you can get good cinnamon and peppermint oils at a pharmacy that is willing to order it for you. My mom and pop pharmacy used to special order in large bottles of Humco brand dirt cheap.

    Also be sure to warn people that the candy will have very sharp edges. We all learned it as kids, but it’s amazing how many adults don’t seem to grasp the concept, grab a handful and try to chew it.

  2. Posted February 7, 2013 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    Howdy! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the great work!

  3. Isabella
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I love this post!!!!!!! But how much sugar, corn syrup, and water are you supposed to use?

  4. Isabella
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Oops nevermind i found it!!!

  5. Sandra Petrich
    Posted July 9, 2013 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    I imagine you could use molds as well?

  6. Posted July 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    We made this every year (my in-laws tradition…I married in). But now we eat differently and I hate using corn syrup (or artificial colors or flavors). Has anyone ever made this with anything else (like honey) or with more natural colors or flavors? I may have to experiment this year.

    Also, thought I would share my husband’s family’s technique. They snip it instead of set it and break it. They pour it onto a greases cookie sheet and wait for it to cool just a bit (till it will at least sort of hold a shape when you snip a piece off). Then grease up your fingers and start snipping with kitchen shears….putting the cut pieces into a bowl of powdered sugar as you go. One person just tosses the powdered pieces around a bowl so as it cools so the pieces don’t stick together. But the end results are pieces that are little and NOT SHARP, which is nice because you can just pop one into your mouth and suck on it, rather than get sticky fingers.

    Hoping this winter I can find an alternative that is still sweet and wonderful but has a little less artificial stuff in it. I am not looking for health food, just a slight improvement!! But the family memories of making hard tack candy are always fun!

  7. Maxie
    Posted July 28, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Hi,…..reading all of your wonderful candy recipes,….and I do mean delicious recipes,….I have a question and please, could someone be kind enough to get back to me,….I would be so appreciative.
    Here it goes,…I want to make hard candy, but here’s the twist,….take a product like ‘sweet condensed milk’, but it’s a creamy product,….what do I need to do, or what do I need to add to this product, to make it a hard candy. Matter of fact,….any creamy product,….what would be the steps to make this a delicious hard candy?…Thanks for any and all help with this,…..Maxie

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Hi Maxie!

      Oh my goodness that’s a very good question! I’m so sorry but I honestly have no idea how a creamy product would work with hard tack candy! I’m so sorry that I can’t be of any help here!

      Good luck and thanks for stopping by!
      Wenderly

  8. Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    wonderful post. question – what is the quantity of the flavor/oil vials?

    i’m generally a xmas cookie gift giver, but am prepping to go candy this year. figured September was a good time to start thinking about it. how far in advance can the candy be made do you think?

    • Posted October 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      We have found that you’ll need 2 bottles if you’re using the flavorings and 1 bottle if you’re using the oils in each batch. I’m not exactly sure how long the candy will last (ours disappears quickly). But I would imagine if stored in a cool, dark, moist-free place (not in the fridge) that it can easily last a few months.

  9. Bette Jean Gallagher
    Posted October 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I make the same candy, but my recipe says to sprinkle powdered sugar on the pan before you start. When it cools, invert the pan and tap with something like the handle of a regular knife. You can score it with a pizza cutter before it completely sets up and it will be in squares. Putting powdered sugar in the pan before you start would eliminate the step of shaking the candy in a bag because the sugar usually gets all over the candy. Hope this helps.

    • Jon
      Posted October 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Hey that’s a great idea. Thanks for sharing that.

  10. kristen
    Posted November 16, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Used to make this with my mum, she passed this June. I cant get ANY flavor in my candy!! I have used to bottles of flavor! Followed this recipe to the tee! PLEASE HELP!:((((

    • Posted November 16, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Hi Kristen!

      I’m sorry to hear about your mom. And I’m sorry that you aren’t having any luck with the flavorings! Usually 2 bottles of flavors works for us. But maybe you should try using the bottles marked as *oils*. They are much stronger and have always done the trick.

      I hope this helps!

  11. kristen
    Posted November 16, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Ok, so I did the Orange oil, two drams even! I only got a bit of flavor!? Im pulling my hair out :( Am I supposed to let the mixture cool a bit before I add the flavor?? I have NO IDEA what Im doing wrong. Im using granulted sugar, and KARO and Lorann flavors? This is killing me. it looks and smells beautiful! uuugggghhhhh

    • Posted November 21, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Oh my goodness Kristen! I’m stumped! I’ve never had that problem before! You’re using all the right ingredients! We don’t let the mixture cool before adding the flavor but maybe give that a try? And maybe you could talk to the store that your purchased the oils from to make sure that they’re not old? That’s the only thing I can think of to try. I hope that you have success soon! :)

      • Dana F.
        Posted December 4, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        For citrus flavors (orange, lemon) add a half teaspoon of citric acid as you add the flavoring/oil. This will make the flavor pop.

        You can buy it by the bottle in most places that sell the flavorings.

  12. Beth
    Posted November 22, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    im sorry, still not clear on how much flavoring or oil to use….. you have to make is very simple for me!!~! how many ounces are the bottles, etc. thanks

    • Posted November 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Hi Beth!

      The LorAnn bottles that I use (they call them a dram) are, 0.125 ounces. I use 2 of the bottles for the drams marked *flavorings* and I use 1 bottle if the dram is marked *oils*. Hope that helps!

  13. JoLyn
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Love your recipe :-) It is exact to my Gram’s *But with pictures* :-) Pictures make the little kids more apt to “cook along” with me!!
    My question/problem is with cinnamon (I am using flavor not oil)
    I put in 2!! but it doesn’t taste good at all!! I’ve thrown out to batches so far (all my other flavors turn out great) any tricks with the cinnamon?

    PS…. sure is cold in West Virginia today! Going outside to add my cinnamon and peppermint is BBRRRrrrrrrrrrrrr (lol)

    • Posted November 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Hi JoLyn!

      What a delightful thing to be doing whilst it’s cold and blustery outside (except for the part where you go outside!) :)

      I have had trouble with cinnamon in the past as well. I like my cinnamon to be VERY cinnamon-y! So for that very reason I always use the *oils* rather than the *flavorings* for cinnamon.

      Hope that helps! Stay warm!

      Wishing you & yours a very happy holiday season!

  14. Nycole
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Has anyone done extract instead of oils? I accidentally bought them instead of oils this weekend at walmart and we live about an hour from walmart so I can’t really go return/exchange. I have read mixed reviews on other recipe sites and I was just curious as to your thoughts!

  15. Vicki
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    My Mom is getting ready to make cinnamon, anise, peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen. She is wanting to know what colors should she make each flavor. She is giving them to other people and wants to have kind of a universal thing of if they see a red piece they know its cinnamon. Any suggestions?

    • Posted December 7, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Hi Vicki!

      As you can tell from my post, my girls wanted to make the colors *not* match the flavor! But usually we try to actually match the flavor with a color. It’s really a personal preference thing but this is what we like to do when we are actually matching…

      *cinnamon – red
      *anise – yellow
      *peppermint – blue
      *spearmint – green
      *wintergreen – aqua

      Hope that helps!! Merry Merry!

      • Vicki
        Posted December 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Yes it does. Thank you very much. Mom will be happy.

  16. Danette Long
    Posted December 7, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I stumbled upon your AWESOME website thru Pinterest. This is a perfect demonstration of how to make hard tack candy. The steps that you outline with pictures makes this project fun and do-able for candy makers of all levels. So far, I’ve made 4 batches of this candy over the past 2 months and each batch turned out perfect. You are correct, patience is the key with making this (and all) candies. One tip that my mom and grandma used to do is to pour the candy out on a greased marble cutting board and to cut the candy *while it is still hot* with a pizza cutter. That way, there aren’t so many small shards that go to waste. Excellent post! I’ll continue to use and share your website. Thank you again!

  17. George
    Posted December 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    You said “We have found that you’ll need 2 of the flavoring vials and 1 of the oil vials in each batch.”

    Are you suggesting that folks put in three drams per batch? That seems a bit of overkill.

    • Posted December 14, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Hi George!

      And no! I am not suggesting both!! But rather one OR the other!! Thanks for pointing that out! I’ll have to change that sentence!

  18. Candy
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I tried making this tonight and followed the instructions I just don’t know what I did wrong, I’ve tried this candy before but never made it until now but mine kinda sticks to your teeth, should I let it sit a little longer? Help!! LOL and thanks for the recipe.

    • Posted December 16, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      That happens sometimes to me too. If the temp isn’t just right at the hard tack temp things can go wrong. (I’ve also noticed that the weather and humidity outside can affect the outcome). It really is a science. Don’t give up though! The more you make it the better you’ll get at reading the candy! Happy Holidays!

  19. Heidi
    Posted December 17, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Just a trick that I’d like to share….we use the aluminum throw away pans
    spray with pan then pour in
    once it has firmed up just SLIGHTLY (you can check my taking the tip of a knife and gently lift the corner) then cut it with scissors, yes this really does work well. I just take my kitchen scissors and cut them then drop the pcs in a bowl of powdered sugar and the next person kinda rolls them slightly to smooth the edges then drops them into a colander that has a plate under it and when I’m done shake off the powdered sugar and put into another bowl. The powdered sugar prevents them from sticking. MUCH easier with scissors though. Great recipe and lots of fun. I have several children so it’s an assembly line here!! Merry Christmas everyone and happy candy making!!!

  20. laurene
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    i made horehound hard tack with only honey and this morning they had shrunk and stuck together any thoughts?

    • Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      Hi Laurene!

      The horehound hard tack with honey sounds wonderful! I’ve never done that before so I’m sorry but I don’t know what to suggest! Good luck and Happy Holidays!

  21. Liz
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Is my candy safe to eat? I made candy using oil of wintergreen, methyl salicylate nf. I read the bottle only after I finished and poured it in the pans and noticed the oil had separated and was floating on the candy. The bottle says not for internal use. I used Humco Wintergreen oil.

    • Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      I’ve never used that but if the bottle says *not for internal use* I would NOT eat it!! I’ve always used LorAnn oils in mine.

  22. Barbie
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    do you have to put powder sugar on the candy?

  23. Kirsten
    Posted January 26, 2014 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    I love your name wenderlley

  24. Patty C.
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I am from Pennsylvania and have made hard tack candy with my family for 40 years. It’s our holiday tradition. I like your technique of breaking it, we cut each piece and it is very labor intensive. The way I was taught was to fill several cookie sheets (the ones with edges aka jelly roll pans) with powdered sugar, level it flat, then with your index finger make close lines of tunnels. This is where we pour the hot mixture to form ropes. When slightly cooled it is then cut into small pieces. We place the cut pieces into a colander and shake off the excess when completely cooled. Everyone’s hands are sore afterwards and usually a few blisters and one burn among us. May have to try your technique, but I do worry about sharp edges?

    • Posted February 28, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      As long as your careful while putting the candy in your mouth you should be ok. I’ve just poked the inside of my mouth a time or two, and surprisingly, not all of the pieces have sharp edges. :) Loved hearing your story! Thanks for sharing Patty!

  25. Teri E.
    Posted October 7, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Great instruction! Thank you. I’m wondering about making a a 4″x 3″ cube. Not to eat but for decoration. (A Sorcerer’s Stone actually). I thought if I could make a block of this candy, then chip away the edges with a hammer then it would look like the one in the movie. Any advice? Will it work if I pour it into a small bread loaf pan and let it cool?

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Hi Teri!

      I’ve never tried that! Sounds like fun! Make sure that the loaf pan is non-stick and report back about how it turned out! :)

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