I love learning new skills in the kitchen, especially ones that are “old-fashioned” … as in, something people really don’t do anymore that used to be part of everyday life, like rendering lard, cooking dried beans, or making homemade candy.
(If you love to learn new skills too, make things from scratch, and give homemade gifts… read to the bottom of this post for 6 more awesome, simple, homemade gift ideas from my fellow homestead bloggers!)
This taffy was really fun to make! And it did transport me back to a time when those living close to the land did this kind of thing out of necessity. You want a treat? You make it yourself! I had never made taffy before… actually, I don’t think I’ve ever even had real, old-fashioned taffy before. I love making homemade salted honey caramels, and this was very similar, but the “pulling” part of it was new to me- and really fun! To see it change into taffy right in my own hands was really neat.
The finished product can vary a bit depending on exactly how hot you cook it (there is a little wiggle room here), and how much you are able to pull it before it cools. It’s really unlike any candy I’ve had before- you taste the honey, and the caramelized cream which gives it a unique flavor. I heated mine to the upper end, so at first it is more like a hard candy: don’t bite it, you have to suck on it. And after it warms up, it softens and you can chew the last little bit remaining.
This old-fashioned taffy would make a great gift, each little piece tucked into a candy wrapper and placed into a decorative jar with a hand-written rustic gift tag. You’ll definitely want to use clear candy wrappers, so as not to hide the gorgeous candy underneath! Taffy pulling could easily become a new holiday tradition with the kids!
This is a recipe I would highly recommend reading through to the end BEFORE you get started… you don’t want any surprises when you’re making candy!
Old-Fashioned Taffy Recipe: Cream & Honey Taffy
Generously grease a large baking pan (mine was a half sheet pan, 13X18) with butter. Butter is your best friend during the making of this taffy!
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan combine the remaining ingredients: heavy cream, salt, honey, and cane sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring often- this will help prevent the cream from scorching, until the mixture starts to boil. Place a lid on the pan and boil for one minutes (this helps to wash down any sugar crystals from the side of the pan). Then DO NOT STIR!
Once the mixture comes to a boil DO NOT STIR it anymore, at all. Don’t touch it, or you risk it becoming ruined.
Here’s another secret: I hate candy thermometers and never use them. I use my digital meat thermometer instead- it works just as well, and I think it is more accurate because I can test different parts of the pan. You definitely need some kind of thermometer for making candy though, don’t try to do this without it.
Cook the candy until it reaches 270F degrees (soft crack stage) or just a degree or two over. Don’t undershoot here.
Turn off the heat, and pour the candy onto your buttered pan. Do not scrape the sides and bottom of the pan- this candy is almost always hotter, and will affect the texture of your finished candy in a negative way. Allow the candy to cool for a few minutes. This is go-time now… you can’t get distracted!
Use a buttered fork to pick the edges of the candy up, and flop them over into the center of the candy mass. Cool for another few minutes, or until the candy is cool enough to handle. It will want to stick to anything not buttered, so be careful here and have some butter out for re-greasing your hands often. I found it helpful to keep the pan re-greased too, because I ended up setting the warm candy down on the pan a few times (to let my hands cool… I might have been a little anxious to get pulling!).
What you don’t want to happen? Have very hot candy sticking to your fingers and not be able to get it off.
Butter your hands well, pick up the candy and start pulling it. Have you ever seen videos or machines pulling salt water taffy? This is what you want it to look like. Pull it and pull it, making sure that you get the end parts too- it would be really easy to just keep stretching the middle section and not the ends that you’re hanging on to.
As it cools, and as you are adding air to it while pulling, it will start to turn lighter in color, more opaque, and become harder to pull. When you get a sense that you don’t have very many pulls left, start to twist it (to get the pretty ridges on the outside) and form it into a rope. I was doing this by myself, so I separated the candy mass into two parts at this point to make it easier to control forming the rope. You want to make the rope diameter pretty small- like tootsie roll size. Not the smallest tootsie roll, but the next size up… you know the ones.
Once your ropes are beautifully twisted and looking how you’d like them, immediately use a kitchen scissors (don’t have one? just wash and dry a regular scissors) and start cutting them into bite-size pieces onto a cutting board or piece of parchment paper. If it is getting too sticky, you may need to butter your scissors, though I found I didn’t need to.
Allow the candies to completely cool before wrapping them. Store in an air-tight container.
And now, from my fellow DIY-loving homesteaders, check out these other handmade gift ideas:
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