Friday, April 29, 2011

Sophie's Sweets

The Friday Market in town will be starting up again soon, and Sophie has identified a market niche that she wishes to fill. She has been busily researching candy-making and doing various experiments. She decided that although kids would probably buy a few lurid-coloured lollipops at a dollar apiece, there's likely a broader market to be tapped into if she appeals to adults meandering around appreciating the quaintness of the market and the simplicity of its mostly natural products.

So her plan is to focus on old-fashioned hard candy, using simple and mostly natural ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, natural flavours where possible and a bit of vegetable-based colouring where warranted.

She's made three test batches so far. The first proved definitively that our candy thermometer is not accurate unless deeply immersed in large-volume recipes: some heavily carmelized (i.e. somewhat burnt) peppermint candies were the result. The laser thermometer has been perfect. The root beer flavouring produced a divine result, and though the maple she tried today was a little too subtle (add more next time!) it otherwise worked nicely. We've tried a few approaches to shaping the candy. So far the best method, in that the syrup remains workable long enough for a 12-year-old to complete production, is to drizzle it in powdered sugar, let cool slightly, then roll, twist and snip the cooling candy into individual pillow-shaped candies. The final product has a nice, rustic look to it that fits with her marketing plan.

Today she and I have been talking about and experimenting with packaging and presentation options. Kraft paper gives a nice look, I think. Wetted down it can be easily tied over old jar lids. The matching labels look lovely. The smaller 8 oz. jar shown in the photo is about the right size for a large gift jar and holds about 170 gm of candy. She'll also need smaller jars: we hope to recycle 4 oz. baby food jars. We have a pump'n'seal thingummy that does a great job of evacuating air from jars and sealing out the moisture that makes the candies get sticky and soft over time. So far the jars we've sealed have kept their candy nice and dry even in our warm humid kitchen.

Fiona's plan is to blend loose-leaf herbal teas and exotic chai blends to sell at the market. She is hoping to grow a lot of herbs and before too long we will be heading into the forest in search of wild ginger to harvest.


  1. Anonymous3:32 pm

    How wonderful! I'm looking forward to foraging season myself.

  2. Wonderful ideas! I've been reading your blog for a few months and have found inspiration on so many levels. All of your writing on the Suzuki process with your children has been a particular help for us as just-graduated Twinklers!


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