We are a largish family of 6 kids so we had the older trio and the littles.
|Shattered Butterscotch-Ready to eat|
Are there other folks out there who are still referred to as the "little kids" in their 50's?
The costumes were so much fun, Raggedy Ann and Andy complete with wigs.
Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz with the Scarecrow.
I remember lots of long gowns, even longer dress gloves and the occasional high heel too.
Like the year I made 9 girls into a Mob of Meerkats, starting from sweatsuits.
|A Mob of Meerkats - from the British Series Meerkat Manor|
But most of all Halloween meant trick or treating home from school and Butterscotch.
My mom MADE her Homemade Butterscotch Halloween candy every year.
It was legendary in Demarest, New Jersey where I grew up.
Mrs. Mac's butterscotch was the candy everyone traded anything to get. I never had as many friends as the week before Halloween.
Even my teachers got into the act. Since I had siblings who were 10+ years older than I was, the teachers had seen a lot of Mrs. Mac's Butterscotch. Each year our teachers would be gifted the hard, wax paper wrapped disc of pure, sweet, dark brown candy. I wonder if they looked down their rosters at the beginning of the school year to see if they would be the fortunate ones with a McFadden in class that year?
We even had to carry along some as we went Trick or Treating to give to adults who remembered getting the butterscotch when they were kids. Yes, really. I had neighbors who wouldn't give me a treat till I gave them a present of Mrs. Mac's Butterscotch Candy first.
I was always amazed at my mother's planning for the production.She stated her purchasing early to stock up on the light brown sugar. It had to be regular cane sugar, C&H brand in a one pound box. Doubling the recipe was taking foolhardy chances. It never came out right if you did.
Then pounds of unsalted butter started to appear in the freezer. Considering that this was a house that had truly embraced margarine, you knew it was a special recipe.
The rolls of waxed paper would be purchased, and our jobs would begin. We kids were the beginning and the end of the process of creation. We greased the muffin tins with melted butter, not too much, just a bit, to allow release of each golden disc from the pans and we wrapped.
Mom was the one who handled the boiling sugar, guess she didn't want to use her nursing skills while she was so busy being a confectioner.
We would start the production a week or so before Halloween. If you hold them too long, the little cakes get sticky and sugar out. They just aren't as nice when they get held.
On a clear, dry day, she would get out our flat bottomed stew pots and begin with just one batch. This batch was the tester, the one batch we all would get a piece from to try.
Candy making has so many variables, ambient temperature, moisture of the butter, dryness or not of the sugar, temperature of the pan and the weather that you have to make a batch to see how to compensate.
She would stir the ingredients together over an "egg light". Every one of us kids knew exactly what that meant on our cranky old gas stove. It meant the height of the flame appropriate to cooking a scrambled egg without burning or overcooking. A little consistent flame. Since we all learned how to cook an egg for breakfast as soon as we could safely handle the stove, it was a familiar part of our world.
The butter would begin to melt, coating the bottom of the pot in fat. The sugar would start to melt and give off the scent of molasses.
Mom would stir and stir to combine the two and the alchemy of the vinegar and water assisted.
I would get such headaches from the smell. I think it was the vinegar, but the finished candy is worth it.
Everyone of us knew how to test the crack stage before we were 6.
Mom would ask us to get the little ball of mix out of the glass of water. Guess our hands were just the right size to fit. We would get to play with (or eat) the little bit of candy to see if it was ready.
Was it still sticky, not glossy? Still needed a bit more time then.
Did it have resistance to being squished and snap when you bent it? Good, then it was done.
Then Mom would do her Butterscotch dance.
Taking the pot off the heat and moving quickly to the counter where the prepared muffin tins sat, she would take her metal cooking spoon - dip and pour, dip and pour till the syrup was deposited perfectly in each little cup. Her shoulders would lead the way to the next empty muffin space to deposit the boiling syrup. Her hips would get into the rhythm. Her fingers would fly.
Somehow, perfectly, 18 pieces of candy would be cooling before it solidified in the pot, with only a few drips on the pan to become kid food. Then the pot would be back on the burner to begin again.
We were in charge of the wrapping part of the production.
First, we had to cut the paper in perfect rectangles. We managed to do this without losing too many fingers to the sharp cutter on the box.
Then each rectangle was cut to form a 4x6 inch rectangle.
We would stack them up in bunches of 18 since that was the production from a batch, although occasionally there would be a bit less.
Each one was wrapped in a square of waxed paper with a butchers fold on top and the precise corners folded underneath.
Waiting for the candy to cool was always a torture. The dribbles on top were our solace, they cooled rapidly. If you got them before they were cold, you could stretch them into lovely lacy strings to wrap around your tongue. We would clean up the pans while we waited.
Popping out the discs was another skill learned young. You had to put the point of the paring knife down the side of each compartment just right to POP out the disc without creating flakes on the sides.
But if you did flake, it was just another piece for the family.
See why Mom made one batch for us? She wasn't crazy, she knew we would get sick of it fast and preserve the rest for the trick or treaters.
Popping out the discs, passing them to my sister to wrap. Waiting for my brother to find the shoe boxes to stack the completed ones into for storage till the big day. That was the weekend before Halloween for us.
I remember when the concerns about Halloween candy safety started when I was in 3rd grade.
First kids wouldn't eat apples, thinking there were razor blades hidden. Then all unwrapped foods got to be suspicious. No more popcorn balls, fudge or little baggies of candy corn.
We started to put an address label on each piece of candy so folks who were newer in town could call us to check if they wanted.
But occasionally, we would see a child leave the house and throw the candy away.
My mom was so hurt.
She kept making the candy to hand out on Halloween till I was in 6th grade. Then she stopped.
My mom loved to do this yearly event even after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She would make a batch just for us, or maybe a batch for the Legion or the firehouse. The older kids in college always got a care package. But she was always hurt that she couldn't make it for her community.
Now I look at the recipe and see family history.
So in honor of my mom.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Classic, crisp butterscotch candy. Now you can make your own right at home
Mrs. Mac's Homemade Butterscotch Candy RecipeBy Dr. Jean Layton,
Classic, crisp butterscotch candy. Now you can make your own right at home
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 18 discs of candy
Equipment needed: 18 holed muffin tin
1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 pound of light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons water
2 tablespoons melted butter
1. Melt butter in flat bottom stew pot over slow flame.
2. Add sugar and stir to combine.
3. Add vinegar and water.
4.Heat slowly till sugar melts.
5. Continue to cook till hard crack stage (300 degrees)is reached.
That means 300 degrees on a candy thermometer or when a ball of the syrup dropped in to a glass of water is firm glossy and breaks when tapped.
6.Grease muffin pans with melted butter using a pastry brush.
When the syrup has reached the hard crack stage, use a metal spoon to pour a 1/4 cup or so portion into each muffin cup.
Let cool completely.
Pop out the discs by inserting a paring knife tip into the side of each muffin compartment.
Wrap in waxed paper.
To Eat: slap the disc hard on a flat surface to break into pieces
suck, don't chew.