December 19th is National Hard Candy Day.
We’ve all had hard candy of some type: butterscotch, horehound drops, lemon drops, lollipops, mints, root beer barrels, sour balls and fruit flavors galore.
Hard candy begins by boiling sugar and water, then adding flavors and colors. As the syrup boils, water evaporates and the sugar concentration increases.
Who invented hard candy?
Cave men ate honey from beehives. Ancient Arabs, Chinese and Egyptians rolled fruits and nuts in honey. That was it for many centuries.
In the Middle Ages, merchants brought sugar back from the Indian subcontinent, where sugar cane originated. But it was very costly. Whether for tea, baked goods or confections, sugar was a treat for the wealthy. Honey was the sweetener available to those of lesser means.
By the 17th century there were many more sugar mills, and sugar became more affordable to the middle class. Confectioners began to express their creativity, resulting in the large selection of hard candy we have today.
With the Industrial Revolution (1750 to 1850), candy-making developed into an industry and hard candies became accessible to everyone. Hard candy on a stick followed: The word “lollipop” (originally spelled lollypop) first appeared in print in 1784.
Here’s more about the manufacture of hard candy. Read it as you enjoy a piece.
Pick up a bag or two at the supermarket, or head to the candy store to customize a nostalgic selection.
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