A Candy Pull

This is the last article in October of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on October 28, 1906, and is a talk on the entertainment of doing a candy pull. The article also discusses how how many candy is much better for children rather than store bought bonbons full of chemicals.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

A Candy Pull

THAT is what they call it now-a-days.

In my youth and at the South, it was known familiarly as a “Molasses Stew”—sometimes as a “Sugar Stew.” It was a popular form of entertainment on winter evenings, and divided the honors at “Halloween” with snapdragon and the dozen charms practiced a peep into the future we had not then learned is lovingly veiled from our presumptuous eyes.


I do not know that confectioners were more honest then than now, but they were more simple concerning that which is evil. In unbiblical language, they were not “up” in the matter of adulterations of their wares. Alba terra had no marketable value, and candy-makers neither poisoned nor painted the “goodies” that had children for their chief customers.

The subject of this Talk with the Housemother was suggested to me by the sight of a “scare head” in a newspaper:


It was not cheap candy, I learn from perusal of the story, but put up in pretty boxes, and colored attractively. Retail price—40 cents a pound. The father bought it on his way home from work, and he, the mother and the three children ate the whole pound before bedtime, with the exception of a few bits left in the bottom of the box. These, when analyzed by the doctors, whose united skill saved the lives of the sufferers, were adjudged to contain arsenical green and other deadly drugs.

For many years the purchase of cheap candies has been sternly prohibited in the several households in which my word has the weight of lawful authority. Chocolate, which we more than suspected to be half American mud; lemon drops, so sour as to cut the throat of the infant that swallowed them, demonstrating to the initiated the active presence of sulphuric acid: green, red and yellow sticks and cubes that owed brilliancy to mineral dyes; brandy drops, sticky and cloying, redeemed from insipidity by alcohol—one and all of these fruits of juvenile speculations with pocket-money and windfalls of pennies—are ruthlessly confiscated and burned in the market place—alias, Grandmamma’s wood-fire, or the kitchen range. If a child fall ill suddenly of indigestion, the first query is—“Have you eaten shop candy?” If the answer be affirmative, the case is treated as one of poisoning.

This is not an idle tale, or an exaggeration of facts. I could make yet stronger the appeal to mothers to withhold hurtful sweets from their darlings were I to tell all I know of the infamous cheats foisted upon us by men who, after all, are no worse than their fellow money-makers.

These things being true, why do we not make our candies as well as can our fruit and vegetables? And this last is what we must do if we would not be done slowly to death by salicylic acid and more potent drugs.

Pulling candy on a frosty evening when a boy or two, and a girl or three, have dropped in, may be a puerile amusement in the sight of sophisticated younglings of the human species. I submit that it is better exercise for the moral muscles, as it assuredly is for the physical, than waltzing and “bridge.”


Now, as to the modus operandi of the family and social entertainment: Cover the dining table with a clean white cloth, and set on this four large platters, and a large plate for each pair of “pullers.” Platters and plates are well-buttered, and saucers of cornstarch and pats of butter stand conveniently near the platters. The candy is cooked in the kitchen. If Bridget resent the invasion of her domain when an “acquaintance” may be with her, choose her “evening out” for the frolic. “Our” cooks have been uniformly tolerant of candy pulls, for we give them no additional trouble in the way of cleaning kettles and plates next day. As soon at the kettle is emptied it is filled with hot water and set on the side of the range to soak itself clean by the time the fun is over. The plates are piled in the sink, soaped, and covered with hot water when they are cleared.

To return to our candy! For a “molasses stew,” put into the kettle ingredients in the following proportions:


To one quart of the best quality of molasses allow one cup of granulated sugar, a great spoonful of butter and half a cup of vinegar. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, mix with the molasses, and cook—slowly at first—until the mixture hardens when dropped into water. At this point stir in the butter, and when this is melted a teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in a little hot water. The boiling mixture will foam up furiously, so be on your guard against spatters of hot syrup. As soon as the effervescing ceases, take the kettle from the fire and empty into the buttered platters, dividing the contents equally between them.

Now, let the pullers gird them for the work by donning big white aprons, turning back sleeves, removing cuffs, and buttering the tips of the fingers. The adroit candymaker never touches the hot mass except with dainty finger-tips. It is a sign of awkwardness or ignorance if any other part of the hand is sticky.

The hot mass must be taken from the platter as soon as it can be handled. The butter will keep it from adhering to the sensitive skin, and a little fortitude enables one to bear the heat in consideration of the fact that the hotter it is when drawn out into a rope, the better the chance of working it speedily into excellent candy. If left to cool until tolerable to the touch, it will string, and give no end of annoyance. Let the practiced puller—who is almost surely a woman—manipulate the hot lump alone for a minute to get it into working order. When she can draw it into a thick rope, her partner must come to her help by grasping the other end of it. Henceforward the business is play, and graceful play. The fast-whitening rope is drawn out as far as may be without danger of parting, caught dexterously in the middle, first by one, then by another of the pullers, turned back upon itself to double its thickness, then drawn out again. The process, often and swiftly repeated, bleaches the dark yellow candy to cream white, if it is not allowed to cool too suddenly. In hardening it opposes more resistance to the arms and hands, until the strain is a test of agility and strength. Here is where skill and grace come into play.

It will be so brittle, by and by, that further pulling would snap the rope. Now, lay it carefully on the platter, coiling as you let it down. If you wish to braid it, do it on the platter, not when suspended in the air. Divide into three strands of equal length, and plait them evenly and fast. Set the platter in a cold place for a few minutes before breaking the candy into lengths. If properly cooked and pulled, it will be light, porous, of a pale straw color, and delicious to the taste.


What is sold in the shops as old-fashioned molasses candy” is too often doctored with chemicals, and thickened with flour. The cornstarch of which mention was made just now is for the benefit of luckless pullers whose fingers have got sticky. A touch of the starch is safer than rebuttering. Too much butter will cause the rope to split into strings.

Sugar candy is made thus: To two large cups of granulated sugar allow half a cup of water. Do not stir it, but set over the fire to heat slowly while dissolving. When you have a clear liquid, dissolve a bit of cream-of-tartar not bigger than a lima bean in a teaspoonful of cold water, and pour into the sugared water, shaking the saucepan to induce mixing. Cook steadily until a teaspoonful, poured slowly from the tip of the spoon into cold water, hardens and threads in the air.

Proceed then as with the molasses candy.

Home-made candies, packed into paper-lined boxes, will keep for weeks. If the sugar be stirred at any stage of the process, it will soon granulate.

The above are warranted (truthfully) pure candies, that cannot hurt any healthy child. The taste for what English children call “sweeties” is normal and right. When founded upon wholesome domestic confections, it revolts at unholy combinations of white and colored earths, false essences, and froth—sold under the name of “French bon bons.”

Recipes for various home-made candies will be found in another column.

The Housemothers’ Exchange
Recipes for Domestic Candies

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