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Pulling out all the stops for holiday honey candy

By Amy Wilde

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 14 2010 5:04 p.m. MST

Virginia Breitenbeker has made honey candy for 60 years.

Amy Wilde

There are very few times when one can witness a grandmother, 78, and a grandson, 26, in an equal test of physical strength.

When the event is pulling honey candy, however, the grandmother almost always comes out on top.

Every year before Christmas, Virginia Breitenbeker's home in Harper Ward, located just north of Brigham City, becomes a candy factory as a band of close family members gather together to pull candy.

Breitenbeker was a little girl when she first was introduced to the sweet treat that dates back to pioneer times. She would watch in awe as her neighbor David O. Anderson would boil the sugar and honey and then pull it until it was almost snow white.

"This is not a recipe that was handed down from my mother," she said. "It came from watching David for many years and learning from him."

It has been her tradition for nearly 60 years.

"I have been married for 59 years," she said, "and have been making honey candy for Christmas each and every one of those years."

For her, it is not the snow falling, the sparkly lights or even the holiday decorations that signify the Christmas season is here, it's pulling honey candy.

"Christmas can't come until we get the honey candy done," she said between stirring the candy and adding the sugar to the next batch.

Watching Breitenbeker pull the candy is a delicious marvel. She knows exactly how to handle it while twisting it into beautiful golden braids and giving it one last twirl before laying it out on the wax paper for cutting.

While she works, she is teaching a younger generations the art. With wide eyes, the smaller children watch her butter up her hands and go to work without a hint of exhaustion.

This year, Cameron Whittier, a grandson with arms like barrels, was recruited to help. Pulling candy is not for the lightweights and requires an accordion-type movement that works your arms until they feel like they are on fire.

Whittier, who burned his thumb from handling the candy a little to soon, quickly moves into a rhythm with the candy as it cools, spinning it into figure eights that could win best of show.

After seven batches and four hours of pulling, the party is over. The bags of candy are each labeled and ready for the ride home, if they make it that far.

Virginia's Honey Candy

1 cup sugar

1 cup honey

Add ingredients to a heavy pan and over high heat stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved do not stir again. When the candy reaches 280 degrees, pour it into a greased glass dish.

Cool the candy by bringing the edges inward with a rubber spatula. When the candy has cooled enough to handle, but is still hot, pull until it is a light golden yellow. Then cut into pieces and wrap in wax paper.

Amy Wilde is a writer living in Brigham City. Her blog is amywildeatmosphere.blogspot.com.

e-mail: features@desnews.com

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