Tag Archives: Candy canes

The History of Candy Canes

Candy Canes are one of the few holiday traditions I never really bought into. As a child, I migrated away from the peppermint sticks and towards the LifeSavers Christmas books. In my youth, cherry and butter rum trumped peppermint every time.

But the Candy Canes still represent Christmas to me, even if I don’t eat them. The question I have is how did this happen? When did candy canes come to mean Christmas?

The answer lies in the past of course. Sugar, and items containing sugar, were expensive commodities. As such, they were thought of as luxury items, rather than the cheap treats that we view them as today.

Not only was sugar a luxury item, but it was also viewed as medicinal. If someone had a sore throat, or a bit of a cough, to the doctor’s they went, where they were giving a sugar crystals or sticks to suck upon.

It probably didn’t take long for people to note that theses sticks faired poorly at curing flus and colds, but still tasted rather dandy. They became a treat, more than cure. So much so, that it is said that a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony. Legend has it that to honor the occasion, he had the candies bent into shepherds’ crooks, although this is speculation. The first candy canes were almost entirely sugar, no peppermint, and most assuredly had no red striping.

The Christmas aspect comes into play when you realize that treats, especially expensive, hard to come by treats, could not be afforded by the masses with any great regularity. But during those special times when one would spend a little more, candy canes were purchased. As Christmas has been one of the primary “special times” in Europe, the sugar canes became primarily associated with the Holiday.

Confectioners and apothecaries took note of the popularity and started adding flavorings. Cinnamon, anise, and peppermint oil were all probably added for medicinal purposes at first, but as before, people found that these tasted pretty darn good, regardless if you were sick or not. So new flavors were discovered and introduced. The result? The jars of stick candy found at the Cracker Barrel, or other “homey” shops can be traced almost directly back to these creations.

It’s reported that it was August Imgard of Ohio who popularized putting the canes on Christmas trees. In 1847, Christmas was coming back into vogue in the United States and the Christmas tree was also gaining popularity. It was only a matter of time before someone put two and two together.

No one knows for sure who put the red stripes on candy cane, or when. But we can look to Christmas Cards to provide some clues. In the late 19th century and prior, cards showed trees decorated with plain white canes. Sometime after 1900 striped ones started appearing on many of the printed cards.

There are some folks who believe the following about Candy Canes — a faithful Indiana candy maker developed the treat as a witnessing tool. The candy is hard because God’s church is founded on the rock. It’s white because of Jesus’s purity, and the red stands for Christ’s blood. Cane’s are Peppermint flavored as a reference to cleansing hyssop, and curved to represent a shepherd’s staff and/or the letter “J” for Jesus.

Most of claims are likely false, as there’s no proof to any of these assertions. Sorry. It’d be easier to prove these claims if one person had invented the candy, but that simply did not happen.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Candy Canes, Food History, Christmas History


Holiday Cookies: Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

As we get ready for the holidays, I’m going to alter my typical plans a bit, and offer up some Holiday Cookie recipes for you to use, or simply read about — if that happens to be your thing. Once a week, every week before Christmas, I’ll offer up one cookie recipe. ‘Cause I loves me the holiday cookies.

Some of you may recognize these cookies from the December 2005 issue of Bon Appetit. Two things become relatively clear from this fact:

  1. My taste is holiday cookies border on the non-traditional
  2. My picture taking skills are still far below those who photograph for the Conde Nast corporation.

I can live with both of these facts.

The cookies were…okay.I’d probably ensure the candy canes were crsuhed a little finer next time. Other than that, they were not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg

Buttercream Filling

  • 1 cup powder sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 drops (or more) red food coloring
  • 4 oz crushed peppermint or candy canes

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

In another medium mixing bowl, blend the butter and sugar. Use of a hand electric mixer is highly recommended for this task. Once the sugar is thoroughly incorporated, add the egg and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and beat until well blended. Refrigerate for one hour.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out the dough by level tablespoons. Roll into a ball and place upon the paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each ball into a small disk.

Place in the oven and bake for 10-11 minutes, to where the cookies no longer look “wet”. Remove from oven and all to cook on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. After five minutes, place on cooling rack to finish cooling.

Filling

Beat together powdered sugar and butter in a medium bowl until well blended. Add peppermint extract and two drops of food coloring. Beat until until pink and well blended.

Spread 2 teaspoons of filling on one side of a cookie. Place another cookie ontop and smoosh together, getting an “oreo cookie” type of look. Repeat with remaining cookies until filling is kaput.

Place crushed candy canes on a plate. Roll edges of cookies through the candy crumbs.

Makes roughly 18 cookies

Technorati Tags: Food and drink, Holiday Cookies, Cookies, Recipes