I attended Girl Scout day camp as a kid. The entirety of my excitement and joy for that week traveled home with me in the form of a carefully held final project: rock candy. It was not a triumphant declaration of my DIY candy-making skills.
I had a friend who went to the same day camp, but she was in a different group. I visited her house a few weeks later, and as you might guess, she did it. She made perfect, fat, sweet, Cracker Barrel-quality crystals.
Things did not look so good in my own kitchen. One day passed, and another. I wondered, “When does something happen? Is it working?” I held hope it would show up in a few days, then weeks. Accepting failure, I licked the soggy string a few times just to taste defeat.
In the spirit of pre-pubescence, my feelings flickered between The World Is Out to Get Me, and My Friend Is Awesome, I Am A Total Failure.
I’m-smarter-now candy making
I still think about a two-decade-old failed experiment. But it’s time to let that beautiful, little sad story go and try making rock candy now. And adult-like, I’d make it fancy—artisan, even. How about organic sugar and orange essential oil and lemon extract flavors? Bingo.
Rock Candy Basics
- Dissolve sugar in hot/boiling water.
- Add your food coloring and extracts, swirl and dissolve.
- Pour the mixture into a clean jar.
- Use something to hold your string (ew) or bamboo stick (yes) in place, like a skewer, pencil, or clothespin (yes, genius.)
- If you use a stick, prepare it by giving the crystals something to cling to, like pre-rolling the stick in sugar or cutting into it slightly with scissors. (I tried the first one and found that when I dipped the stick into hot liquid, the sugar melted off. Duh. So when I added more sugar to the mixture the next day, I notched the stick. This works… mostly.
- If nothing happens in a couple days, the sugar water needs a higher sugar concentration. Pour out the liquid, heat it, and dissolve more sugar. (I did this last step twice since I had two different flavors. Lemon started to form while orange did not so I did it again.)
I checked-in on my burgeoning sugar crystals a few times a week until at last—I successfully made rock candy. Boom.
Except… the victory tasted like ambivalence. It was so much work, for what? Two sticks I didn’t want to eat. And rock candy doesn’t emerge from the sugar ooze dry and ready to eat. Dealing with the aftermath wasn’t too far off from my original failure.
So, it’s time to own up. Making rock candy is a lot like life. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. And then maybe you’ll have to try again, a little harder. And then you’ll get there and realize that maybe the things you carry with you aren’t really the things you want anymore. Like rock candy.
I’m just glad to make April of Yesterday proud. She’d eat it up.
Because I’m a curious being who doesn’t want to feel alone, I’m curious. Has this happened to you? Did you try to make something as a kid and it totally failed? What was it?! Did you try again?)