How to Make a Candy Cane (the Old-Fashioned Way)

Over Thanksgiving, my family made a little getaway to Stowe in Vermont. I expected the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour (and samples) to be a highlight, but I didn’t count on the fabulous candy-cane-making demo at Laughing Moon Chocolates. What follows is by no means a how-to (in fact, it’s quite dangerous, so please don’t try this at home), but it should serve as interesting documentation. Here’s how they did it.

Heat sugar, corn syrup, and water to 300 degrees in a professional-grade copper cauldron (to conduct and distribute heat evenly):

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Mix in peppermint abstract:

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Pour the mixture into a baking sheet, coated with butter (the butter keeps the mixture from sticking to the pan, not as an ingredient) and start sliding it back and forth between another coated baking sheet to begin cooling and stiffening to a jelly consistency:

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At this point, they added a “secret ingredient” that started turning the mixture white and allowed small air bubbles to form (making the cane lighter and easy to snap). Then, wearing cotton gloves inside thick rubber gloves, pick up the solidified glob (being careful and taking turns to keep from burning hands, because it’s still over 200 degrees at this point) and pull it down from a hook on the wall, sort of like a taffy puller (though taffy starts at around 200 degrees or cooler):

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Meanwhile, go through the same process (minus the pulling) with a portion of the original mixture that was put aside and colored red (the whole candy cane is flavored, not just the red strip):

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Add the red portion to the white block, like coating bread with jelly:

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At this point, after working hard to cool down the mixture for the process, keep it warm under a heat lamp, as you begin to twist out soft canes:

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Cut them to cane length as you pull them off, and begin rolling them out, like making a play doh snake:

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Here’s the hands-on part of the demo, where kids got to roll an individual cane and form it into whatever shape they liked:

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And here it is, the finished candy cane (this one has two hooks):

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Thanks so much to Laughing Moon Chocolates for letting the public see how these are still made by hand. I’ll never look at their candy canes in the same way again. Here’s a video of their process, which I found only after completing this post: