But, what is the sweetest tradition in this season?
Children, we all know, love candy. If you dared ask them, most
children would swear they could live on candy. And apparently they
are correct. Don't the ubiquitous "they" say that of all the food
groups you could choose from, you could survive on a chocolate bar?
Who doesn't have a winter holiday memory with candy in it? Candy
canes or dishes of sweetened nuts can be found in nearly every home.
If you are over age 40, maybe you remember the days when you
received a mixed package at school, or after an event, with hard
candies, nuts in the shell, oranges, apples, a box of Cracker Jacks
with a prize, and always a peppermint candy stick or cane.
This might be presented in a simple brown paper bag handed out
when exiting on the last day of school before Christmas. Or it might
be a chock-full red mesh sock, big enough to fit a giant, also
handed out at the door when leaving a big party. The larger socks
might even have brightly colored, foil-wrapped chocolates in Santa
shapes or gold coins, or chocolate creams, whole candy bars, or
small boxes of candies, such as Milk Duds or chocolate-covered
Hmmm, interesting that these bundles of sweets with enough
calories to fuel a rocket ship were always bestowed when children
were headed out the door.
For centuries, people have made candies and given them as gifts.
Whether homemade or store-bought, candy is one of the favorite gifts
in this holiday season.
When it is homemade, it conveys a special message. People know
that they were being thought of kindly and for an extended period of
time, as the special sweet took some time to make and to be
Ask any Logan County Board member. For years now, all during
their December meeting, board members' eyes stray to the package
with their name on it that sits in front of each person. It sort of
looks like enjoyable torment as the meeting wears on because no one
will open their box during the meeting. But they all know what is in
it. If you watch carefully, at some point you will catch the corners
of each person's mouth curl upward for a grin as they glimpse that
What's in the box, they all know, is the famous homemade fudge
made by JoAnne Marlin, made especially for each and every one of
Across the street in the Lincoln City Council chambers, the same
has been going on for years. Aldermen look forward to seeing and
tasting what Marilyn Armbrust has prepared for them as a holiday
treat. Mrs. Armbrust does something different each year. It's always
cute, cheerful and scrumptious. But, typically, the aldermen get
cookies. So, that's a different story.
If you have not tried making candy before, candy recipes are easy
to find online.
Before you begin, here are a few basic tips:
Use a heavy pan for any recipe that calls for heating or
Use a candy thermometer, even if the recipe gives cooking
time in minutes. Use the guide on the thermometer to decide
Use a timer.
If it says to stop stirring at some point, don't stir
again. Even a grain of sugar from the side of the pot can
cause crystallizing, and the candy becomes grainy instead of
If you are beating egg whites for stiffness, be sure all
the utensils, beaters and the bowl are free of any grease or
oil, and it helps if everything in this process is chilled
Generally speaking, it is better to avoid high-humidity
days, but especially if you are making recipes that require
stiffly beaten eggs whites and sugar, which is to provide
When beating sugar into egg whites, add sugar steadily
and gradually; don't just dump.
In candy making, ingredient substitutions are common, but
you will want to follow the process directions closely.
Allow yourself plenty of time. This should be fun.
And, most important to remember, if it doesn't turn out
right, don't tell anybody. You've made a new recipe and it
tastes just as good.
Candy making can call for some quick and timely actions. So, you
will want to get completely organized before you begin.
Set out all the measuring instruments, utensils, thermometer,
bowls and pans, and the ingredients you will be using. Prepare your
final containers, which may be buttered or oiled cake pans, or
cookie sheets or boxes lined with parchment or wax papers.
Setup for the final product usually takes some time, so it's
better to have it done before you start.
Read through the recipe a couple of times to become familiar with
what you will be doing and to see if there is any setup you will
want to do before starting, such as if you would need to set a hot
pan into a pan of cold water. Or, you might need extra space in the
final steps, such as if you are to be pulling taffy, which takes
lots of room and scissors.
OK, you've picked your recipe, you have everything ready to go.
Now it's time to turn on your favorite holiday music and enjoy
starting a new tradition.
Here is a recipe you might try. Christmas Butter Fudge is made
with simple ingredients. It was taken from an old candy book. How
old? The book has a recipe from Lady Bird Johnson when her husband
was president of the United States, and another recipe is from Mrs.
Otto Kerner when her husband was governor of Illinois.
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So, this recipe is at least 50 years old. Considering the year,
where it calls for milk, that probably means you will want whole
milk. Today, people drink lower-fat milk, which might not be good
for fudge. You might try using either evaporated or condensed milk
as a substitute if you don't have whole milk on hand.
This fudge can be dressed up for the holidays with nuts or
candied fruit, according to your taste. Its simple base allows you
to use your imagination to create your own unique look and taste.
Christmas Butter Fudge
4 cups sugar
2 cups milk
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional to mix in or place on top:
1/4 cup finely chopped candied cherries
or candied fruit
1/4 cup blanched pistachios
Combine sugar, milk, butter and salt in a large saucepan; bring
to boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved.
Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until
thermometer reaches 236 degrees.
Remove from heat and set the pan in another pan of cold water. Do
not stir or beat until the mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
Add vanilla and beat until candy becomes thick, creamy and loses
its shine. When it begins to set up (take a firmer form), if nuts or
candied fruit are desired, quickly fold those in.
Pour into a buttered 8-by-8-inch pan.
When firm, cut into squares. Leave plain or dress each square
with chopped candied fruit; candied, zest or slivered curls of
lemon, orange or lime rinds; a pecan or walnut half; chopped
peanuts; shaved chocolate curls; sprinkle with cocoa or dried
espresso powder; or how about a chocolate-covered espresso bean on
some of the squares.
You can dress this up by placing individual fudge squares in a
paper candy cup, place in a box and add holiday-colored,
candy-covered almonds or peanut M&M's between papered pieces.
Here are a few suggested websites that offer traditional candy
recipes and new twists on old favorites. One of the advantages to
online recipe sites is that some provide reader comments, which can
be quite helpful in candy making.
You can count on Martha Stewart for wonderful recipes and great
This year she's worked up some sensational brittles of all sorts, a
couple of delectable chocolate truffles — ever considered an Earl
Grey tea truffle? — or how about making old-fashioned pulled
peppermint candy sticks, pralines, fudges or toffee. Of course,
Martha will show you how to gift wrap or package these for the most
stunning presentation also.
For more traditional
tastes, try Southern foods for more terrific holiday candy recipes.
If candy making doesn't appeal to you, you can't go wrong with a
trip into a good candy store. At Abe's in Lincoln, Helen Rainforth
has ordered in from all her favorite candy makers — Godiva, Long
Grove, Ghiradelli and Abdallah, which offer high-quality candies and
The store is most popular for its caramel corn, cheese and
buttered popcorn that are made fresh on the premises daily and ready
to go in your choice of tin for the perfect gift.
There are also all the newest and best gourmet products, such as
soup starters, condiments, coffees, teas, and many more great food
gift or party items to choose from.
Bear in mind that when you give someone candy, you may be held
liable for continuing a new "sweet memory."
[By JAN YOUNGQUIST]