A Sucker for the Holidays

by Steven Behling


One of my best childhood memories of the Christmas season was when my sisters and I would help our parents rub oil on the inside of metal molds, insert paper sticks, and set them on an aluminum cookie sheet placed on top of several inches of snow in the backyard.  Returning to the toasty warm kitchen, we stirred together sugar, Karo Syrup, and water in a saucepan, stirred until boiling, clipped a candy thermometer on the side of the pan, and watched as the temperature climbed.  When it hit soft crack stage, we'd carefully drop food coloring onto the bubbling surface and watch the holly red, starlight yellow, or wintry green spread throughout the syrup.  

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Once the thermometer hit 300° F, we'd quickly whisk it off the burner, stir in flavoring oil with the wooden spoon (which also doubled as a spanking utensil), and take the pan outside to pour the scalding solution into the molds, steam rising and the overpowering scent of spicy cinnamon, fragrant clove, or bracing peppermint filling our lungs.  

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Once cooled, we would remove the clip at the base of each mold and it would (sometimes) spring away from the finished product.  Wrapped in individual bags and closed with a twist tie, we would give handfuls to neighbors and dear friends to celebrate the season.     

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During the tail end of graduate school, I re-ignited this family tradition in snow-exempt Southern California, sadly watching the lollipops cool slowly on the kitchen counter as the thermometer outside hit 80 degrees.  The cinnamon, clove, and peppermint flavors of my childhood seemed out of place in such balmy conditions, so I went with options like peach, grape, and root beer.  Nevertheless, using my father's handwritten recipe below still captured some of that Christmas magic.

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Today I make around six batches or so for my clients and their families, and I must say that the response I get from these is fantastic.  

"Ooh!  They're so lovely."

"Did you really make these yourself?"

"It's like stained glass!"

Either folks really do like them, or they have such a mediocre expectation of my ability to produce something delicious in the kitchen that they are knocked off their feet by these little suckers (pun intended).  Regardless, if you're feeling so inclined to recreate this tradition in your kitchen, I get my lollipop molds and oils during trips to my favorite kitchen and restaurant supply shop in the Salt Lake Valley, Orson Gygi.  You can visit their online store to pick up Sweet Creations Lollipop Molds and LorAnn Oils, lollipop sticks and bags.  I now use a little bit of jute to tie a bow at the bottom of mine, but you could use yarn or metallic twist ties as well.

See you later, suckers!