Happy Friday! Our regular contributor Alex Jones is dropping in with a recipe for homemade honey candy. These are perfect for soothing a sore throat or any time you need a virtuous sweet treat. If you’re in the Philly area, there’s also an opportunity to learn to make these candies in person this Sunday. Details at the bottom of the post! -Marisa
Since I don’t have kids and I live in a multi-unit building that’s not conducive to trick-or-treating, I don’t typically think of Halloween as a time to stockpile candy. (Wait till the day after when it’s on sale — that’s the real trick).
But this time of year is when I start thinking about preparing for winter — making fire cider, stockpiling local root veggies that will last me through the end of the year, planting garlic.
And thanks to a fellow member of my Philly food community, I have a recipe to share with you that’s great for this time of year, whether you’re looking to make some naturally sweet candies or prepare for winter cold season.
I first met Ailbhe Pascal — known as Al — while I was at the farmers’ market, where they were looking for mushrooms and cheese to add to the sourdough breads they make and sell through Fikira Bakery.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying their work — delicious, sustainably sourced foods made and shared with radical justice in mind — as a Fikira bread share member, at the PHL Assembled Kitchen, an offshoot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s current exhibit made by and for Philadelphia’s most resilient communities, and through supporting projects like Fikira’s Thanksgiving fundraiser benefitting the Ramapoo Lenape tribe’s Split Rock camp in New Jersey, which has been fighting to stop pipeline construction on their indigenous land.
When Al offered me a taste of honey candy they had made and told me it required just two ingredients, I knew I wanted to share it with the Food In Jars community. The candy tasted like honey, of course, but a little more complex and darker, with a hint of acid to balance out the sweetness.
At my request, Al generously agreed to share this special recipe. These honey candies make a tasty, simple, naturally sweet treat — or, as I do, you can make them to use as a portable, tasty throat soother for winter colds.
To make these candies, you just need two ingredients: honey and an acidic liquid, like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or orange juice. You can also swap out the honey for maple syrup to create a vegan (and equally delicious) candy.
You can add in grated or ground ginger for the flavor and a medicinal oomph, but other flavors like lavender, citrus, or rosemary would make delicious combinations, too. It also helps to have something sweet and powdery — like confectioner’s sugar or vitamin C powder like Emergen-C — to toss the candies in before you wrap them to keep them from sticking to the paper.
While the ingredient list is short, the technique — cooking the honey mixture to the softball stage (for a taffylike texture) or hard-crack stage (for hard candy) — can be a little tricky. The most important thing is to keep an eye on the mixture, stir it frequently as detailed in the recipe below, and use an instant-read or candy thermometer, if you have one, to check progress.
If you don’t have a thermometer handy, you can still use visual cues and tests: watch for when the mixture can’t be stirred down, when it coats the back of the spoon, and when a small spoonful dropped into a cup of ice water forms into a ball.
Once the honey mixture is ready, carefully spoon it into silicon candy molds or ice cube trays. I used gummi bear molds, since that’s what I had on hand, but other shapes and sizes will work too. When I unmolded them after about an hour of cooling, they kept their shape perfectly, with a hard, slightly taffylike texture. As you unmold, be sure to pick off (and snack on) the stray edges on the shapes.
Next, simply toss your candies in a little powdered sugar, or, if you’re going the medicinal route, vitamin C powder. Then wrap in candy foil or (my choice) little twists of wax paper, taffy style. In the end, the flavor was not unlike that of a ginger chew, backed by a pleasantly complex, not-too-sweet honey caramel flavor — a tasty treat or a throat soother, depending on what you need in the moment.
One important note: If you’ve got any kind of honeybee population nearby, keep your windows closed while you make this recipe! They will want to pay you a visit while the honey is bubbling away on your stove.
The day I made these candies in my kitchen was warm, and I had the windows open with screens in. After 10 minutes or so of cooking, I noticed a bee that had come in through a tear in the window screen. And then I noticed a half dozen or so of its friends, crawling the windows looking for a way in.
While I completely understand their excitement and appreciate their presence — my neighbor down the block keeps a few hives — I got a little concerned that the whole swarm was on the way looking for candy, so I turned on some fans and turned off the stove. (This is why the finished product is just slightly darker than I’d like — I was shooing bees when I should have been checking the pot!)
- 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, or another acidic liquid of your choice
- Grated fresh or powdered dried ginger to taste (optional)
- 1 packet powdered sugar or vitamin C powder (optional)
- Whisk honey with lemon juice in a medium saucepan off-heat until thinned into a syrup. Add ginger (powdered or grated) if desired.
- Turn stove on to medium-high heat and casually stir with spatula. As foam appears around the edges, turn heat off, stirring until foam is incorporated. You’ll see the clear, viscous honey become creamy and opaque.
- Repeat step 2 until the honey visibly thickens. It’ll become darker and harder to stir. If you have a candy thermometer, watch for the “hard-crack point” or 300º F. (You can also stop cooking the honey at around 250º to get a taffy-like candy.)
- You’ll know you’ve reached the hard-crack stage when the honey can’t help but bubble up, it coats the back of a spoon, and/or it hardens into a ball when dropped into ice water. Honey burns easily, so take care to check temperature/spoon coat/ice water test often.
- Pour candied honey into silicone molds and leave to cool for about 1 hour.
- Carefully press mold cavities from the bottom to release candy.
- To keep honey candies from being too sticky, drop them from the mold into either a bowl of powdered sugar or powdered Vitamin C and cover them liberally before wrapping.
- Put candies in wax paper or candy foils and twist shut to store.