When I was a kid, every year, my mom would make Hard Tack Candy. Delicious and flavorful, it was our favorite treat at Christmas time. It was fun as a kid to pretend that each tiny morsel was a precious jewel in a treasure box. They were fun to suck on or crunch with our teeth, and each one hid a special flavor.
Last year, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I remembered this awesome treat and decided to make some of my own. I looked up recipes, but every time I googled “Hard Tack” all that came up was some sort of weird biscuits! I’ve since found out that not everyone calls this stuff “Hard Tack.” Many refer to it as “Rock Candy,” which to me is a totally different thing.
But whatever you call it, it is a super simple, easy and delicious candy treat that will last FOREVER. Literally, I still have half a gallon ziploc bag of the stuff I made last year! We used them for neighbor gifts in the neighborhood, and we got SO many compliments! In fact, one neighbor moved away, and she actually came to our house last week with the empty jar from last year and asked us if we minded giving her some more, as she and her husband adored them! Now THAT is an endorsement!
Here’s what you’ll need:
3¾ C sugar
1½ C light corn syrup
1 C water
1 tsp food coloring
1 bottle oil flavorings (a variety)
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
Note: You can also use regular flavorings, though you’ll need 2 bottles to get a really good flavor in the candy. The oils are much better.
You’ll also need a candy thermometer if you want to do it right. It CAN be done without one, but I’ve never had good luck with it.
To begin, mix together your corn syrup, sugar and water in a good non-stick pan on the stove. Turn it to medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. It can take a few minutes. Once it is well combined, DO NOT STIR ANYMORE.
Let your mixture come to a nice rolling boil. When the candy thermometer reaches 260°, add your food coloring. Don’t stir it, just let the boiling do the mixing.
I made a TON of different flavors of this over a few hours, and it was so interesting to see the different colors and how they spread.
Continue to watch the thermometer. As soon as it reaches 300°, remove it from the heat and let the boiling stop. Now is when you can add your oil flavor. Use a wooden spoon and stir it quickly to ensure it permeates the candy.
Once you’re satisfied, pour the mixture into a large cookie sheet. You can either grease the pan really well, or you can use my method of adding a nice layer of powdered sugar across the bottom of the pan. I prefer this method as it helps to remove the hard tack candy from the pan AND it makes it easier to coat it at the end.
Now leave your hot molten pans out of the reach of children and let them cool. DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE FRIDGE. Doing so will make them turn sticky and chewy rather than going crunchy like we want. It IS called Hard Tack Candy after all.
Once it’s cooled completely, you can take a butter knife and stab hard into the middle of the pans to create cracks. You can also use a rolling pin or clean pan to smack it a few times. This is a great bit of fun for the kids to help with, as they love smashing it into pieces. Just be sure to leave lots of good bite-sized pieces. There will be tons of “candy dust” left, as well, which can be great for the kids to dig in to. (I have no photos of this process, as we were having too much fun!)
Once all of your pieces are there, use one tablespoon of powdered sugar in a gallon bag to coat the candy. Just dump the pieces into the bag with the sugar and shake it a few times. Easy peasy!
Now you can divide up the hard tack candy into various jars, bags or boxes to give as gifts.
Of course, this will make a TON of hard tack candy, so you’ll be sure to have some for yourself, too! I can’t think of a better gift to give OR receive at the holidays! I hope you’ll try it for yourself.
Hard Tack Candy
- 3¾ C sugar
- 1½ C light corn syrup
- 1 C water
- 1 tsp food coloring
- 1 bottle oil flavorings (a variety)
- 1 Tbsp powdered sugar
- Mix corn syrup, sugar and water in a non-stick pan on the stove.
- Turn to medium heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Do not stir any more.
- Let the mixture come to a rolling boil. When a candy thermometer reaches 260 degrees, add your food coloring. Do not stir – let the boiling do the mixing.
- When the temperature reaches 300 degrees, remove from heat and let the boiling come to a stop.
- Add your flavorings, and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the mixture onto a large cookie sheet either greased well or with powdered sugar coating it.
- Let the pan of candy cool – Do NOT put in the fridge.
- Once set, take a knife or other object and smash the candy into chunks.
- Place candy in a ziploc bag with 1 TB of powdered sugar. Shake it together to coat the candy.