The slumber parties at our house growing up were always unique, and there was one activity in particular that none of my friends ever did anywhere else but at our house. When the night was getting late, things had started to die down, and we were scrambling around for something to do next, my mother would be in the kitchen cooking up a batch of vinegar taffy for us to pull.
Each of us was given a little portion of candy to make into a masterpiece. We pulled and pulled until the gooey, translucent stuff magically turned into something opaque and hard that could be twisted into pretty little candies and taken home to share with parents.
There was of course, lots of laughter and talking that went on during the pulling stage as everyone compared notes on their taffy progress. Sometimes the taffy didn't set up right, but that was never too disappointing. The experience was the fun part.
Here are directions for holding your own old fashioned taffy pull. (The timing of the boiling stage is a little tricky; so you might want to test it out with your own brood before doing it for a party)
Lightly butter a jelly roll pan (or cookie sheet with low sides)
Set out a sheet of wax paper for each puller. Put about ½ teaspoon butter in the corner of each sheet.
Cut pieces of wax paper (about 3 inches square) to be used in wrapping finished taffy.
Lightly butter the sides of a heavy kettle.
Stir together in the kettle: (Wooden spoon to stir)
2 cups sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup vinegar (I think I used cider vinegar)
2 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup light corn syrup (Karo or other)
Bring mixture to a moderate, steady boil that bubbles over the entire surface.
Do not stir once it starts boiling. Let it boil steadily until it reaches hard boil stage*. (250 – 266 degrees F)
Without stirring it, pour the mixture onto the lightly buttered jelly roll pan to cool to temperature that can be handled without a lot of discomfort. (It should still be very warm) This may take 10 or 20 minutes.
Cut into portions with kitchen scissors or sharp knife and put on each puller’s wax paper.
Each puller should slightly butter his/her hands to keep the taffy from sticking. (but not too much butter or it won’t set up well)
Pull taffy until no longer clear, but a whitish opaque, very stiff and hard to pull.
Twist taffy (too make it pretty) and lay it down on the wax paper. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Kitchen scissors work well.
Wrap them in the little pieces of wax paper.
*To test for hard boil stage, use a candy thermometer that you clip to side of kettle and leave there during boiling. ( To make sure it is still accurate, test it before each use. leave it with the bulb in boiling water for several minutes, to make sure it reads 212 degrees F.)
Use the cold water test: (Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook describes this well) Spoon a few drops of the hot candy mixture into a cup of very cold (but not icy) water. Using your fingers, form the drops into a ball. Remove the ball from the water, and if it doesn’t flatten out until it is pressed, it is in the hard ball stage. Repeat the test often, especially often as it gets closer to being done. Each time use fresh cold water and a clean spoon. (learning the signs of the other stages helps you distinguish)