Seaside sticks of rock. One of those must-buy items when holidaying in a seaside resort! You know someone has been to the beaches when they return with one of these in hand as a souvenir! Sticks of rock are a British creation. They originated in North-West England and came to fruition in the 19th Century, generally attributed to one of two people. ‘Dynamite Dick’ was one such person and the other, an ex-miner by the name of Ben Bullock.
Bullock’s story seems more likely, as it has more detail. Inspiration came while on a trip to Blackpool. He subsequently began manufacturing these sticks of brightly coloured, lettered candy at his Yorkshire-based confectionary factory. This new invention received critical success upon circulation of the first batch. The popualarity of Seaside Rock soon exploded as many enjoyed a cheap and sweet treat while frolicking in the sun.
What is the creation process?
Rock making is the work of ‘Sugar Boilers’ and is a two person job. They make them in bulk, and to create a minimum of 100 they use a large copper pan to boil up sugar & glucose to approximately 300c. The sugar boilers then tip the mixture and divide it.
As part of an aeration and flavouring process, a part of the mixture goes to a separate machine. Another portion forms the lettering, for which the end result looks like layers of coloured and plain toffee. The final part is the outer layer, with food colouring helping to create the famous vibrant colour. Sugar Boilers do not use computer fonts when they are at the lettering stage, the entire process is by hand. Layer by layer, the divided parts come together again.
This huge piece of rock then goes to a machine called a ‘Batch Roller’, this maintains the shape. Finally, the Sugar Boilers pull the rock into strings and cut it into portions for wrapping and distribution.
So now that we have seen the Seaside Rock creation process, let’s try something a little more manageable from the comfort of our own homes!
What we are going to make today is still called rock, but it is very much a different kind. This can be fun to do with kids, who get to watch the crystalisation process over a few days. This recipe can be a bit tempramental (Sometimes the crystals will grow a lot more than expected) but it is good fun regardless.
You Will Need (makes 3)
- 1 cup of water (240 ml)
- 3 cups of white granulated sugar (675 g)
wooden spoon or spatula
lollipop sticks or bamboo skewers
wide glasses or mason jars (one glass per rock candy)
- (Flavouring/ Food colouring of your choice)
Put some sugar on a plate. Dip the sticks (or skewers) in water and then roll them in sugar. Where you put the sugar will be where the crystals will grow. Allow the sticks to dry.
Put a large saucepan on the hob and set to medium heat. Add the water and bring it to a simmer. Then add the sugar one cup at a time, stirring it to dissolve the sugar. Bring it to the boil. If you are using a colour or flavour you can add it in as it boils.
Take the pan off from the heat and allow the sugar solution to cool for 20 minutes.
Run a hot tap and let the water run over the glass or mason jar to heat it up until very warm (Ensure that you use a wide glass or mason jar for best results). Following this, pour the hot sugar mixture into your container.
Attach a clothes peg to a sugar stick and set it in the solution. If needed, use a metal ring on top of the mason jar in order for the clothespin to sit on it. Try to make sure that the stick is in the middle of the glass and is a little bit raised from the bottom. If it is too close to the bottom the crystals might accumulate together down there.
Let the crystals form for 3 to 5 days. Use a fork and gently break away any thin layer of sugar that has formed on the surface of the solution. Then pull out the rock candy and place in another jar (or cup) to dry for 4 hours. And there you have it! Enjoy your very own rock candy.
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(images coutesy of http://www.sweetthoughts.co.uk/)