The Candy Cane

The Candy Cane

The candy cane is a popular treat that many people enjoy at Christmas. The history of the candy cane is filled with legends as to its origin, the meaning behind the red stripes, and the cane shape. Years ago, hard candy was used mostly for medicinal purposes and later became a sweet treat. The beginning of the candy cane in the United States is associated with August Imgard, a German immigrant who used candy canes to decorate his Christmas tree in 1847, in Wooster, Ohio. Typically, people during this time would use cookies or paper decorations if they had a tree, but Imgard’s new method of decoration caught on. In the 1920s, a candy maker in Georgia named Bob McCormack started making candy canes as special treats for family and friends. He began regularly producing the candy canes; although the process at that time was labor intensive because it required pulling and shaping the candy; work that was slow. McCormack’s brother in law, Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest in the 1950's, invented a machine that could produce candy canes and drastically reduced the time and effort it took to make them. Candy canes became extremely popular and began to be mass-produced.

Candy canes can be made at home to enjoy at Christmas. To make them, one needs a candy thermometer, a saucepan, and a cookie sheet. The ingredients are items such as corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, sugar, and cream of tarter. These items are mixed and cooked in a saucepan to a firm consistency, red food coloring can be added, and then the candy is pulled and stretched to a desired shape and allowed to dry on the cookie sheet until it hardens. 

The traditional candy cane that most people think of is a red and white striped hook. But candy canes actually were simply white for many years. It wasn’t until the beginning of the twentieth century that red striping was added, although the reason behind this is unknown. Some have given credit to Bob McCormack for adding the red stripe to his line of candy canes known as “Bob’s Candies.” It is also thought that the peppermint flavor was added during this time period as well. Today, candy canes come in a variety of colors and many different flavors, some of which are cinnamon, mint chocolate, bubble gum, and fruit flavors. 1.76 billion candy canes are made every year. The largest candy cane ever made was 58 feet long, made by Paul Ghinelli. There is even a National Candy Cane Day: December 26, a day to enjoy and appreciate the candy cane. It has developed into a popular treat that people everywhere delight in during the holiday season.

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