Valerie Phillips
Peppermint, anise and blueberry candy canes made by Eileen Moss' family in Fruit Heights.

Candy cane-making has more local fans than I realized. Last week I did a story in the Food section about Richard Port's candy cane-making class.

After the story ran, I received an email from Eileen Moss of Fruit Heights telling me about her family's candy cane tradition that has been handed down since the 1800s. There's quite a lot of history behind it.

"My grandfather's grandfather made candy canes in England in the 1800s and the technique has been passed down through my family with only a few minor changes," said Freeman.

"My grandfather, Ernest Freeman of Brigham City, and his family brought the family recipe for candy with them from England when they immigrated to the United States in 1902. His father was George Richard Freeman, born in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England."

Moss's family pulls the candy out on a meat hook welded to a piece of stainless steel.

She added, "While it takes a minimum of four of us working together, in about one hour we can turn out 40 candy canes that look almost as nice as any store bought cane you can find and the taste can't be beat!"

She even emailed me a photo of the finished product.

Her grandfather's brother, Wilford Freeman, recorded the historic candy cane-making process in the family history.

Here's an excerpt that shows his "cold water" test for doneness, before the days of candy thermometers:

"Sometimes in the evenings, Father would make home-made sweets (candy). He made very good candy. His father (Richard Freeman) had shown him how and had given him the family recipe. After putting the ingredients in a pot, he boiled the mixture until it had about the right color, and then he tested it to find out when it was done.

"He buttered a clean iron rod and put the tip about an inch into the boiling syrup, dipped it in cold water and then pulled the thin layer of candy off the rod. If it was brittle when he chewed it, the candy was done. Then Father poured the boiling liquid onto a large piece of smooth slate rock, the surface of which had been covered with butter so that the candy would not stick to it. Square bars of iron were sometimes set near each edge so that the liquid would not run off. Mother scraped the candy out when it stopped flowing freely from the pot."

A few drops of oil of anise or oil of peppermint or just a lump of butter was used to flavor the candy.

Today, the family uses the old recipe with a few minor changes, the biggest being the addition of corn syrup to keep the candy from "sugaring out," Moss said.

Here is Moss' recipe. Although Christmas is past, there's nothing that says you can't make red-and-white candy canes for Valentine's Day. Or just hang on to the recipe until next Christmas.


4 cups sugar

1 1/8 cup water

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

Food coloring and flavoring (peppermint, anise, raspberry, cinnamon, etc.)

Stir ingredients until all dissolved over high heat. Bring to a boil. Cover and boil 2 minutes. Keeping lid on the candy for 2 minutes washes the sugar crystals off the sides of the pan.

Remove lid and boil to hard crack (about 285° depending on your thermometer).

Pour candy out on a lightly buttered marble slab ½-inch thick, 18-by-18-inches, reserving about 1/2 cup in pan for colored stripes. Add color to reserved stripe candy and set aside — just keeping warm on stove — not boiling.

Using a spatula, move candy around on stone until cool enough to ball up. Add flavoring — about ¼ teaspoon oil flavoring.

Pull on lightly buttered hook until it springs back slightly when pulled. (Remember to pull, not twist or pat!)

While candy is on hook being pulled by others, pour out candy reserved for stripe and cool slightly. Remove large candy blob from hook. Shape into large oval ball. Cut stripe into 2 or 3 pieces using kitchen shears and place on sides of candy ball. Twist out and cut into pieces about ½-inch wide and 7 inches long.

Shape into canes. Place on flat metal surface until hard.

Work quickly as candy hardens fast. When cool wrap in plastic.

— Eileen Moss

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at Email: [email protected]