Appalachia Appalachian Food

Christmas – Hard Rock Candy

Christmas Hard Rock Candy

A while back, B. Ruth left a comment on the Grannyism page asking if Granny ever made Hard Rock Candy.

“Tipper,
Does Granny have a recipe for Hard rock candy…Maybe the one that is in long sticks, then snipped in bite size pieces and rolled in powdered sugar (to keep from sticking)?”

I don’t remember Granny ever making hard rock candy, but the lady who fixes Granny’s hair makes Hard Rock Candy every Christmas and gives it out as gifts. When I visit Granny this time of the year I always look around for the little jelly jar full of hard rock candy and sneak a few pieces.

After B. Ruth got me to thinking about hard rock candy I decided I’d make some myself. I found a recipe in Mark F. Shohn’s Mountain Country Cooking and there was a recipe inside the package of cinnamon oil I purchased for the candy. The recipes were almost exactly alike, except Shohn’s gave the option of making Sassafras Hard Rock Candy.

I assembled all my ingredients and gave it a go. Even though I was using a candy thermometer I somehow managed to burn the candy. And my what a smoky smelly mess that made! I carried the pot outside and set it down to cool and went right back in the kitchen to give it another try.

Hard rock candy recipe

This time I got out my red and white checkered Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that Granny got me when I was first married. The recipe for Hard Rock Candy in it was basically the same however it had more details about the process, making it clear the rise in temperature had to be at a slow and steady pace. The Better Homes and Gardens recipe also used a lower temperature for the candy.

Christmas Hard Rock Candy

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1/4 desired food coloring
  • A few drops of cinnamon or peppermint oil
  • a candy thermometer
  • butter
  • aluminum foil (or tin foil as we call it)

First line a 8X8 pan with foil and butter the foil. I didn’t have an 8X8 pan so I make one out of a larger pan by placing a small loaf pan in one end with a can of can food to hold it in place under the foil.

Butter sides of a heavy 2 quart saucepan.

Rock candy

Add sugar, corn syrup, and water to the saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-high heat till mixture boils, stirring to dissolve the sugar-about 5 minutes. Using a candy thermometer reduce heat to medium and boil until the mixtures reaches 290 degrees. Stir mixture occasionally, this part takes a good 20 minutes if not longer.

Old fashioned hard rock candy

Once the mixture reaches 290 remove it from the heat quickly. Add food coloring and flavoring stir and then quickly pour the hot mixture into the foil lined pan. Let the mixture cool about 10 minutes and then using a spatula score the top layer of the candy in a checkerboard pattern. If the mixture is too hot the score marks will disappear-don’t worry just wait a few minutes more and try again.

powdered sugar on hard rock candy to keep from sticking

Cool completely. Turned cooled candy out onto a cutting board and break along the score marks. This part didn’t work out to well for me. So I ended up laying a piece of plastic wrap on top of the candy and beating it into small pieces by using the back of an ice-cream scooper. (the plastic keeps the pieces from flying all over the place)

breaking up hard rock candy

Put the broken pieces of candy into a ziplock bag and add less than 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Shake the bag around to coat the candy. This step makes the candy look prettier and it keeps it from sticking together.

Even though I ruined the first batch the second batch of candy was more than worth all the trouble and mess. I don’t know who likes it better The Deer Hunter or me.

Hard rock candy recipe from western north carolina

A few key points:

  • while the thermometer starts off slowly climbing it seems to speed up as it reaches about 230 so be sure to stay close by
  • the mixture is beyond hot so be careful not to get splattered by it
  • once the cinnamon or peppermint oil is added to the hot mixture the quick release of odor will almost catch your breath if you’re leaning over the pot
  • this recipe seems to be a different one than what B. Ruth remembered as there was no long strips snipped into bite size pieces, however Miss Cindy makes a Christmas mint that is stretched and pulled until the right consistency and then it’s snipped into pieces
  • Granny’s hairdresser uses molds for her hard rock candy so the pieces are all uniform in size and shape

Tipper

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Gigi
    December 12, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    Tipper, you just know how to make a person feel good and seeing this candy making, it brings out the good o Christmas Spirit in me. ( which i love) thanks Tipper.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    December 11, 2013 at 1:28 am

    I don’t remember homemade hard tack from my childhood, but in northwest Ohio it is a big thing. I first got it from my public school students as a gift. Now our local DDIL makes it. She sent some with our son today. I have had a sore throat and a cough, the smooth sweetness of the hard tack soothes them both and tastes great!

  • Reply
    tea4too0
    December 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Tipper, I want a jar like that. My great granny had some. I have made tons of hard rock candy. It isn’t hard once you learn the tricks. I listen to my candy. The bubbles sound wet at first, then it sounds, well, dryer. I also use the cold water method of checking on doness. I do use the candy thermometer, lol. I always make it with doors and windows wide open and a fan blowing on high. I still have the plastic measuring spoon that is partially melted by the cinnamon oil. It is the only measuring spoon I use for making the candy. Maybe I will make some and have the grandboys help out.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 9, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Doggone…I got so thinking about the songs that I forgot to mention this! Ahggg, how could I have overlooked in your picture that beautiful Hull basket! Can I have it! Just kiddin’! You know it was made in the forties…since it looks like it has the matte glaze..I can’t tell for sure the pattern, looks like Camilia?…It is so pretty…lucky you!
    I have the Woodland pattern and the Bowknot pattern…
    No wonder when I saw the picture of the Rock Candy it seemed so much like my Grannies kitchen, with the peanut waffle jar and the old aluminum funnel…
    Thanks Tipper,
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Tipper,
    I love the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” The girls did a great job on the song…My favorite lyrics were the Burl Ives lyrics also the Tex Ritter lyrics…Both cleaned up the lyrics from the original lyrics of so long ago.
    I also love Dollys song about a hard candy Christmas! That’s what my Daddy said…sometimes the stocking only had an orange, apple if lucky nuts (beside the local black walnut) and some hard homemade rock candy wrapped in brown paper!
    I betcha with a great Christmas dinner consisting of (varmits the boys hunted) and a big hen or turkey, they had a great Christmas!
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    December 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    tipper the candy in the jar is so beautiful and brings back memories.. of my own grannies table at christmas time.. i always loved taking a piece or two.. and savoring the delicious taste(be careful of the sharp pointy edges as they may cut your tongue lol )
    thank you again for such a wonderful blog and for sharing with us.. hope all are warm and safe in their corner of the world.
    specially you and yours.. we have had really cold temps here in pa and some snow..
    sending big hugs and love
    xoxo
    lynnl

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Tipper,
    I love the old-fashioned Christmas
    Candy. Last year at Kerr Drugs I
    found a round, candy-colored container of the best hard candy.
    It was made in Brockton, Ma. by
    F.B. Washburn Candy Company. Each
    canister weighed 1 pound and it is
    as good as I’ve ever found for
    about $3.00.
    Your candy-making adventure made
    me want some Christmas Candy…Ken

  • Reply
    Wanda
    December 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Hey, maybe I’ll dye my hair
    Maybe I’ll move somewhere
    Maybe I’ll get a car
    Maybe I’ll drive so far
    They’ll all lose track
    Me, I’ll bounce right back
    Maybe I’ll sleep real late
    Maybe I’ll lose some weight
    Maybe I’ll clear my junk
    Maybe I’ll just get drunk on apple wine
    Me, I’ll be just
    Fine and dandy
    Lord it’s like a hard candy christmas
    I’m barely getting through tomorrow
    But still I won’t let
    Sorrow bring me way down
    I’ll be fine and dandy
    Lord it’s like a hard candy christmas
    I’m barely getting through tomorrow
    But still I won’t let
    Sorrow get me way down
    Hey, maybe I’ll learn to sew
    Maybe I’ll just lie low
    Maybe I’ll hit the bars
    Maybe I’ll count the stars until dawn
    Me, I will go on
    Maybe I’ll settle down
    Maybe I’ll just leave town
    Maybe I’ll have some fun
    Maybe I’ll meet someone
    And make him mine
    Me, I’ll be just
    Fine and dandy
    Lord it’s like a hard candy christmas
    I’m barely getting through tomorrow
    But still I won’t let
    Sorrow bring me way down
    I’ll be fine and dandy
    Lord it’s like a hard candy christmas
    I’m barely getting through tomorrow
    But still I won’t let
    Sorrow bring me way down
    I’ll be fine and dandy
    Lord it’s like a hard candy christmas
    I’m barely getting through tomorrow
    But still I won’t let
    Sorrow bring me way down
    ’cause I’ll be fine
    (I’ll be fine)
    Oh, I’ll be fine
    Rate this song: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
    >>Search videos and listen to this song<< Most visited DOLLY PARTON lyrics : Unlikely angel Release me Old flames can't hold a candle to you Me & little andy Hard candy christmas Heartbreaker 9 to 5 Applejack Before the next teardrop falls Hold fast to the right You are Submit Corrections Send to friends --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dolly Parton - Hard Rock Candy Christmas lyrics is property of its respective owners. ©LyricsEra 2005 - 2012. All rights reserved. Lyrics Newest Lyrics Top Lyrics All Lyrics Guestbook Contact Sitemap Links Privacy DOLLY PARTON - Hard Rock Candy Christmas song page loading time : 0.030 seconds. statcount

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I like the cinnamon but butterscotch is my favorite!! I like butterscotch so much that when I heard there was a drink called Scotch I was sure I’d drink that when I grew up. Soooo, I tried a taste when I was older — guess what I DON’T drink scotch.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    PS….
    I have several jars like the one in the picture. I found one at my Moms estate that still had a partial label..Peanut butter came in the ones I have…”Jumbo” I beleive was the name on hers, yes it is stored, I now have an excuse to dig it out and use it for hard rock candy just perfect!..There are other companies that used similar jars. Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Tipper,
    I am so glad you posted this recipe! I have been planning on making hard rock candy this year.
    I do want to wait until a very sunny cold dry day. My Grandmother said when you make candy especially hard rock, that the day has to be cold and dry. I guess meaning no pouring down rain. She said something about the humidity asorbing into the sugar and causing it not to set properly. My Dad was the candy maker for the most part. I questioned him about this when he was stirring up a batch of fudge one rainy night. He said, “Well back then the houses weren’t as tight and nowadays the moisture in homes is about the same all the time….Wellll, ha, that candy he made didn’t set that night! I’ll never forget it. He said I put a hex on it! LOL
    He never made the rock candy I was talking about. He said his Mother made the best he ever ate. Keeping it hid til Christmas or special occasions. Ah ha, six children, and 5 of them boys and he wondered why she hid it! LOL I never found any hard rock when she had me climb those chest of drawers to get her and me a piece of candy. She loved candy and I wish I could have been there when I was old enough to appreciate her honored recipe and learned to have made it her way! A skinny little thing that passed in her eighties. Dad said in later years, “If Mamma’s hard rock candy and other recipes could have made it to the Gatlinburg, Tn. shoppes we all would have been rich!” LOL
    I’d say about the price of sugar nowadays is true, especially when you only get 4 lbs. to the 5 lb bag..LOL But, when my Granny was making hard rock candy, sugar and such was about the same in price. Chocolate was harder to come by and pricey. I think sugar has changed as well. I remember my Grandmother, (my Mother’s Mother) making the statement that it wasn’t real as she called it, “real crystilly” like when she was a child!
    Thanks Tipper,
    You were real sweet to go to all that trouble for hard rock candy! I love it!
    I plan on making several flavors and passing a recipe to my boys and grandchildren, along with the stories.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    December 9, 2013 at 11:32 am

    We never made “rock candy” (although love “Big Rock Candy Mountain”) but our family has quite a sweet tooth so up popped lots of sweet memories.
    Do y’all make taffy? Growing up in south Texas both Mom and Dad used to bemoan that it was never cold enough to make taffy – seems both their families made taffy after a fresh snow: stir it up in the kitchen, then go outside in the fresh snow to pull it. Anyone know anything about such a process?
    About the breaking of the candy: I wonder if, like when cutting glass, you line up a scored line over the edge of a counter or cutting board then grip the exposed edge if it might break more cleanly. Might be worth a try.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    December 9, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Beth-loved your comment about the jars! Amazing to think about using them over and over all through the years : ) I don’t know what came in the one I put the candy in-but I love the pattern on it : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Shirla
    December 9, 2013 at 10:02 am

    I have never made hard candy, but have all the ingredients on hand. Guess you know what I will be doing today. Peanut butter candy (we don’t call it fudge) is the most requested around here. I never use marshmallow cream, just the basic old-timey recipe.

  • Reply
    Beth in Ky
    December 9, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Never heard of it being made around here. People probably couldn’t afford the sugar!!! But what interested me was granny’s candy jar! I have 3 of these, a quart & 2 pints..a guy who sold me 1 of them had a lot of nostalgia about the jar. He said his mom saved them for canning sausage so she could see the grease level in the “window” side or something. He also said it was a store jar that came with a product in it,,,, peanut butter or cheese or something. Think of the value of this… bought for 25 cents, eaten, then the jar used for canning for 60 plus years! My antique jars are not display items, or flower vases (except in the off season) but are canned in and filled every year. If I’m industrious 3 times a year. For example the jar that was used for green beans in July, will be emptied and used for venison in November, then opened in February and refilled with pintos, kidney beans, or hominy. I just can’t think of anything that’s any “GREENER” than a mason jar! Beth in Ky

  • Reply
    Renea
    December 9, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Oh. My. What a memory you just triggered. Love this site.
    ReneaWinchester

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 9, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Are you playing this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHADo1mU4fs as you make your rock candy?

  • Reply
    Gina S
    December 9, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I haven’t made or thought much of hard rock candy in many years to where I don’t even recall what became of my recipe. I do remember making several different flavors in separate pans with a different color for each one. I used long pans so the candy was rather thin. When the candy hardened I broke it up by smashing it with the side of a meat mallet. Those pieces weren’t uniform in shape, but that is the way I learned to do it back in a home extension class many years ago.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    December 9, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Shawn-yes 1/2 cup water : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Shawn J
    December 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

    My grandmother used to make this and she used a lot of different flavors one of which was my fave black licorice yum. When you said to add water did you mean a half “cup”?? Just so you know, we call it tin foil too haha.
    smjohns63 at yahoo dot com

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 9, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Tip, that candy sure looks good in the jar! I’ve never made hard rock candy, actually not sure I’ve ever eaten it…at least any that was home made.
    With the soft butter mints that my mother used to make I learned that you add the mint and the very last, otherwise it would boil out. The flavoring is fragile.
    The home made candies sure are better than anything you buy!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 9, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I have eaten my share, but never tried making it. I have cooked sugar and, once it gets hot, it is really hot and doesn’t cool down quickly. If you get any on you, it is very painful.

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    December 9, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Sounds like the start of a new tradition.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 9, 2013 at 7:13 am

    The red & white check Betty Crocker was my first cookbook too, now I have an entire shelf of them, but that one is the favorite.
    I will look for the recipe and perhaps try it this year.

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