Story & Recipe: Jesyka Farley
Growing up, the Ozark National Forest was basically my backyard. I spent most of my life (from 2 months old to 18 years old with a few more years sprinkled in after college) in a beautiful place called Hazel Valley, about 20 minutes east of Fayetteville past Elkins, in a house that my dad built. 2 1/2 years ago, my parents sold the house in the valley and started living their version of “retirement” back in Texas, where they both grew up.
One of the things I love about this recipe is the strong link to my childhood home it stirs up when I make it-the way it can pull me back to the valley-draw me back to that house with the metal roof, cedar posts on the porch, and country blue front door. I loved making this recipe with my mom around Christmas time as a gift we would give to friends and the few neighbors we had. My role was the assistant to steps 4 and 7. I still remember the sense of urgency (and importance) I felt grabbing the hot pads and spoon and running ahead of my mom to open the door for her to go outside onto the deck. We’d always pour the cinnamon oil into the pan on the corner of the deck, under the winter-bare branches of the wild cherry tree, and I’d wave the pot holders, frantically trying to fan the fumes away from us while looking out at the pond. The coughing brought on by inadvertent fume inhalation is still a vivid memory as well-but even that is a fond one. But my favorite job (aside from the eating) was cracking the red and green candy once it had hardened with the heavy end of the butter knife. Hearing that THWACK! and seeing the candy crack and “run” like breaking glass before we’d put the pieces into pint or half pint jars to gift was fun.
The past few years, I’ve started to make this to gift to friends and neighbors (with my mom serving as MY assistant to steps four and seven and any steps in between that I’m not being as attentive to as I should), which I believe means it is now a family tradition. My daughter is almost five, so I think next Christmas, she’ll join the ranks-waving a hot pad. I might even CONSIDER giving up my still-favorite-candy-thwacking job to give her a thrill and keep this thing going.
4 C sugar
1 C light Karo Syrup
1 C water
1/8 oz cinnamon oil
1. Get cookie sheet with edges all the way around. Cover with foil and then sprinkle powdered sugar on top of foil to prevent sticking (or use non-stick foil).
2. Add sugar, Karo, and water to heavy saucepan and boil until candy reaches temperature of 300 degrees.
3. Add food coloring to you liking.*
4. Then, with hot pad and spoon, carry pan OUTSIDE before adding cinnamon oil.
5. Add oil to pan while outside and stir well until thoroughly blended. Be careful not to inhale vapors from candy as vapors are very strong and will hurt.
6. Pour liquid candy into prepared pan (can be done inside or outside) and allow to cool and harden.
7. Crack candy with knife handle and then store in airtight container.
*all natural food coloring typically produces a lovely pastel coloring while the standard food coloring produces the expected colors