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   Sweet Gifts
   From The Home
   By John Havel

  Around this time of year most of us are gearing up our gift lists for close family and friends. And then there are your acquaintances - you know them well, but maybe not enough to actually buy them a gift. Hard candy makes a creative and inexpensive gift idea that makes the holidays even more special because it's homemade.

  The idea of sweet treats was first invented by cavemen who ate honey from bee hives. During ancient times the Egyptians, the Arabs and the Chinese prepared confections of fruit and nuts candied in honey. In Europe during the Middle Ages, the high cost of sugar made sugar candy a delicacy available only to the wealthy. Boiled sugar candies were enjoyed in the seventeenth century in England and in the American colonies.

  Candy making can be quite easy, but, most importantly, you'll need the right tools. You’ll need a medium-size saucepan (3 or 4 quarts) with a heavy bottom and straight sides. You'll also need an accurate candy thermometer. Test your thermometer by placing it in a pan of water and bringing it to the boiling point. It should now register 212F degrees at sea level. If it registers 214 degrees, you can correct it by adding two degrees to those given in the recipe; if 210 degrees, by subtracting. If it's more than a few degrees off in either direction, you need a new thermometer.

  The weather can also determine your success. Did you know that humidity has an enormous effect on the outcome of your hard candy? Because sugar attracts water, rainy days can wreak havoc on even your best attempts at homemade delicacies. Make it easier on yourself - wait for a clear, dry day to try out this recipe.

  Once your candies are cooked and have cooled, pack them in airtight jars. Mason jars are inexpensive and give your gift that extra "homemade" look. Tie an attractive bow around it and you're done. If you have the time and energy to make these gifts, the impression you leave with your friends will last long after the candy is gone.

Old Fashioned Hard Candy
   2 cups sugar
   1/2 cup light Karo syrup
   1/2 cup water

  Stir over low heat until dissolved. Turn heat to high. Using a candy thermometer cook until temperature reads 310 F. REMOVE IMMEDIATELY and pour into an 8" square greased metal pan. After a few minutes check for firmness. When you can cut and a top imprint holds, start cutting with a knife one way in one inch sections; turn pan and make one inch squares. Continuously cut squares, working fast, until squares are almost cut through to the bottom. Turn out onto wax paper, and finish breaking by hand.

Flavorings and Colors (a few drops of food coloring)

   1/4 tsp. peppermint oil - green
   1/4 tsp. clove oil - orange
   1/4 tsp. cinnamon oil - red
   1/4 tsp. lemon oil - yellow

  Mix desired color and flavor in the beginning with sugar, syrup, and water.

Music By John Havel

A Great Gift Idea For Anyone ...
Including Yourself!

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