Candy-making is one of those skills that not too many people possess. It’s not because the task is too difficult, rather it’s that a lot of people are afraid to give it a try or maybe have been unsuccessful once and don’t want to fail again.
I was fortunate to come from a family (my mother’s side) that was into candy-making. My Grandma Albert and Grandpa Vella Menard were candy-makers. Around Christmastime, they used to make taffy (white, chocolate and molasses), peanut brittle and a few other types of hard candy. I have some fond memories of them pulling taffy and placing it in on a marble slab to harden before cutting it. They always had a big bag of taffy for the families of their four children during the holidays. (Grandma and Grandpa passed that tradition on to their son and daughter-in-law, my Uncle Fritz and Auntie Donna, who then passed it on to their son, Kim.)
While my Mom never got into the taffy-making, she did make divinity, which she was an expert at, as well two types of fudge, chocolate and penoche. She also made anise hard candy, which was the subject of a recent post on a Facebook page that I belong to, “Crookston Cooks.” The page is for people with a connection to my hometown, Crookston, Minn., who have an interest in cooking.
Recently, Sheila Bryant Jerik shared in a post that George Widman, who owns Widman’s Candy Shop in Crookston, wouldn’t be making anise candy anymore because it was too time-consuming. George, who is actually George Widman III, and his wife, Lois, run the shop that was opened by his grandfather, George Widman, in 1911. (This is not to be confused with the Widman’s in Grand Forks, which is owned by George’s relatives.) None of George and Lois’ children stuck around Crookston to help run the operation, so it’s basically been a mom-and-pop business since George’s late aunt, Margaret, got too old to help out.
The post spurred a number of comments, including one from me with a photo of some anise I made at just before Christmas. I promised to write about it shortly, but another one of the commenters urged me to share the recipe sooner rather than later. So here it is.
Now if I can just master Mom’s divinity recipe.
2 cups sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
½ cup water
½ teaspoon red food coloring
1½ to 2 teaspoons anise extract
Boil sugar, syrup and water in a large, heavy saucepan to hardball stage (300 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and stir in food coloring and anise extract. Pour into a shallow, lightly buttered 9-by-9-inch pan. When the candy starts to set, score into 1-inch squares. Once cooled, tip over pan and tap bottom. Candy should break apart into cut squares.