Families once pulled taffy at home on cosy winter evenings or rainy technology-free days. In French Canada, where my family settled in the early 1600’s, this molasses taffy recipe is traditionally made on St. Catherine’s Day, November 25th, fashioned into tootsie-roll like logs and wrapped in parchment. My grandmother, Louise Lareau, liked it too much to relegate its creation to one day a year and we made it whenever the mood struck.
Happily, taffy pulling is a perfect activity for kids at home for Christmas vacation. And the result is ideal to use as kid-made gifts for friends and family. And it’ll probably be unique among all the thumbprint cookies and cranberry breads. Although throughout North America molasses was a ubiquitous sweetener more common than refined sugar, today many children have never even tasted it. It’s flavour is much stronger than white or brown sugar. When my grandma first gave me a teaspoon to sample, I didn’t much like it. By the third taste I really liked it, and my five year old daughter was the same way. She was unsure she wanted to make taffy with yucky molasses, but by the time we had rolled and wrapped it, she was hooked.
This is a recipe that needs steady adult supervision while the sugar boils. Once the taffy is cooler, even small kids can safely contribute to the project.
- 2 cups molasses
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Extra butter for hands and surfaces. Butter a baking sheet. Place the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan and heat to boiling, stirring all the while. Then stop stirring and let it boil until it reaches 250 F on your candy thermometer. You haven’t got a candy thermometer? Proceed the old-fashioned way.
Keep a glass of cool water by the stove. After the mixture has boiled for a minute or two, take a small amount of the concoction and dribble a few drips into the water glass.
1) If the mixture dissolves, it is not ready yet. Try again a minute later.
2) If the mixture holds together and with your fingers you can form a small ball, then it has reached the soft ball stage and you can remove the sugar from the heat.
Pour onto the buttered baking sheet. Stir until cool enough to touch. Butter the kids hands and then start pulling the taffy into long ropes until cooled and opaque. Form into balls or logs. Wrap in cellophane, parchment, or wax paper packets tied with colourful yarn or ribbons.