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Long, Fred: Do We Really Need a Hook to Make Candy?

Do We Really Need a Hook to Make Candy?

by Fred Long

Actually, we do sometimes! This is no ordinary hook either. This hook looks like it belongs in a barn, to hold a saddle or bridle. But in fact, it is attached to a wall in a candy making “boiling” room. It has an important use in making candy canes, hard Christmas candies, and fair taffy.

Frank Long's Candy HookFrank Long's Candy HookWhat it has to do with is “air”. Yes, air! When the batch of candy cane or taffy ingredients reach the right temperature, they look nothing like a candy cane or a piece of fair taffy. Candy canes need to be white and fair taffy should be beige. In order to achieve the correct colour, the candy maker, who needs lots of upper body strength, removes the hot batch of soft candy from the copper kettle, and begins to pull the material over the hook. This process takes about 10 to 12 minutes. As air is added to the candy mix, the cane batch turns white, and the taffy lightens in colour to become the nice beige that we are used to enjoying.
Frank Long, my grandfather, learned his candy making skills from a friend in Lawrence, Mass. just after the turn of the last century. By 1909 Frank had settled back in Canada, specifically in Campbellford, where he became a restauranteur, candy maker, and baker. His candy hook was acquired soon after he started in business. It was made in a blacksmith shop, and was still in use when the business was sold in 1974. It was one of the few relics that I managed to save from the “boiling” room. After Frank passed away in 1955, his son Francis W. Long took over the candy making duties. Francis, who is my uncle, is now 90 years old, and lives in a retirement residence in Cobourg. He is quite fit for his age, and one could conjecture that his health and vitality has at least something to do with handling those large heavy batches of candy, and using the candy hook to colour the canes and taffy.