Homemade Candy - Tips for Success

How to Make Your Own Candy

What gets kids more excited about Halloween – the costumes or the candy? You can bet it’s all the unlimited sweet treats they get! The spooky, creepy holiday will be here before you know it. Make this Halloween extra special this year by making homemade candy. You know exactly what is in these terrific treats – and that’s no trick. Homemade candy is not as hard as you think to pull off and the results are - well, pretty sweet. For those who are new to candy making, we have a couple tried and true tips to get you started and a few hard candy recipes to tempt you. You can even include older kids in the fun. Just be careful because cooked sugar syrup can cause severe burns. Always make sure an adult is in charge when making homemade candy.

How To Use a Candy Thermometer

This essential tool to the candy making process is actually quite easy to use. In Imperial Sugar’s 1930 vintage cookbook, A Bag Full of Recipes, we learn to first place the thermometer in the syrup. Cover the bulb of the thermometer and do not let the bulb rest on the bottom of the pot. When reading the thermometer, be sure to get on eye level if it’s not digital. The candy thermometer temperature corresponds to the cold water test used for sugar syrup. Note: A new candy thermometer should be treated according to manufacturer’s instructions before first usage.

How To Perform a Cold Water Test

You can tell when your candy is done by performing a cold water test. This is fairly accurate for an experienced candy maker, but is best used in combination with the thermometer for the most accurate results. The process described in Sue’s Candy Kettle and Some of Her Success Secrets, an Imperial Sugar cookbook from 1951, still holds true for candy makers today. Start by filling a cup or small bowl with cold water; then drop in about one-half teaspoon of the boiling candy syrup. Form the syrup into a ball under the water. Pick up the ball to judge its consistency as to the stage of cooking:

  1. Soft Ball - syrup may be formed into soft ball under water but loses shape when removed. Consistency for fondant and fudges is 234 - 240 degrees F under normal conditions. For higher altitudes, add 22-23 degrees F to the temperature of boiling water.
  2. Firm Ball - Syrup may be formed into ball which retains shape for several seconds when removed from water and then flattens out. Consistency for caramels is 240-245 degrees F under normal conditions. For higher altitudes, add 28-33 degrees F to the temperature of boiling water.
  3. Hard Ball - Syrup may be formed into a hard ball which retains its shape and may be rolled around on an oiled surface. Consistency for taffy is 245-258 degrees F under normal conditions. For higher altitudes, add 33-43 degrees F to the temperature of boiling water.
  4. Crack - Syrup separates into threads when it strikes the water and is difficult to form into a ball. These threads are hard, chewy and stick to teeth. Consistency for brittles is 262-300 degrees F under normal conditions. For higher altitudes, add 50-80 degrees F to the temperature of boiling water.

We highlighted a couple of our favorite homemade hard candies to tempt you, but you will find 130 candy recipes of all types on our website. homemade candyCopycat Watermelon Jolly Ranchers® - Love Watermelon Jolly Ranchers? Here's a copycat version you can make at home. homemade candySour Lemon Drops - Sweet and tart, these classic Sour Lemon Drop candies are a treat that never gets old. homemade candySour Orange Drops - Fun to make and most addicting. Food coloring is completely optional. The pictured orange drops were made without. homemade candyRock Candy - Put your budding scientist to work making these rock sugar candy sticks. Sugar crystals grow right before their eyes, and the results are delicious. homemade candyHomemade Bubble Gum - Skip the stores and make your own homemade bubble gum. We made traditional pink bubble gum with strawberry flavor, but you can get creative with many different flavors and colors in time to be blowing bubbles for Halloween.

See these tips in action in our step-by-step, how-to video.