For years, I had taken the manufacture of candy canes for granted...until I met the girl who would be my wife. See, her family has a tradition of making candy during the holidays, which includes that most perplexing of sugary oddities: the candy cane. And the most perplexing of questions surrounding the candy cane--for me at least--was "how do they make the stripe?"
That first holiday that we were together--no, it must have been the second--I was let in on the family secret. Yes, I was ushered in by cousin Michael to the manufacture of candy canes. I think it's a fun recipe, and doesn't take a whole lot of special or expensive ingredients, so give it a shot! You might have a new family tradition of your own!
And here's the family secret, made not so secret:
Warning: You do not want to even attempt this recipe without at least four non-child people. It involves handling hot things with quasi-bare hands, so it might be good for them to not be whiny either.
6 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cold water
2 Tbsp white Karo syrup or honey
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
flavoring as desired
Mix ingredients (except cream of tartar, flavoring, and food coloring) in a 6 to 7 quart deep saucepan. After sugar is dissolved, do not stir. Bring to a rolling boil and wash down the crystals, (Brig's note: You can also clamp on the lid for at least 3 minutes, since evaporation and condensation will help wash the sugar crystals down the sides too,) then add the cream of tartar. Boil rapidly until it reaches the hard crack stage.
Pour most of it quickly onto a greased dripper or marble slab. Pour the rest into a small metal dish. DO NOT MOVE THE MIXTURE UNTIL PARTLY COOL. Turn the edges in (Brig's note: We use a clean metal putty knife dedicated to candy canes for this) and add the flavoring (2 teaspoons for the marble slab, 1 teaspoon in the small dish). Also, add food coloring to the small dish. Pull the candy in the large dripper until creamy, then form into a ball. (Brig's note: This is just like pulling taffy. You may want to grease up your hands lightly with butter to prevent the hot mixture from sticking to your hands)
Wrap the colored stripe from the small bowl around the middle of the ball. Stretch and roll, twisting to form the traditional stripe on the stick. If it tends to stick to the surface, use a very small amount of flour. Cut into several lengths as necessary. When the desired diameter is achieved, cut and form into canes. If it gets too cold to work, put on a wooden breadboard in a warm oven to soften.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!