Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
When my siblings and I were little, we always stayed in or near the kitchen during the winter. We lived in a big old farm house which was difficult to heat. The kitchen was the warmest room in the house, so there we were. When we (seven of us) got too rowdy or bored, Mom would start making something we could all get involved in. This not only kept us out of trouble and kept Mom from going insane, but it was fun to help Mom make something. Especially if it was taffy. We called it our Taffy Pulling Party and it kept us busy for a long time.
First Mom made the taffy as we patiently watched her. We sat at the huge table, remaining as quiet as we could so we would not be sent to bed. Mom carefully measured her ingredients and slowly boiled the mixture, stirring occasionally. When she got to the point where she began stirring constantly, we became more excited -- we knew then that it would not be long before we got involved.
Finally, Mom began beating the mixture with her big wooden spoon and carefully poured the mixture into a greased pan. This is when we all raced each other to the bathroom to wash our hands with plenty of soap and water. With seven of us trying to get our hands in the sink at the same time it was like a circus gone wild in the bathroom. Then big brother and sister helped the little ones dry their hands well.
Back to the kitchen we ran to stand in line. Each in turn, Mom slapped a spoonful of butter in our hands and we greased up well, to our elbows. We felt like greased pigs! Now the real fun began. Mom paired us off two by two. One older sibling with one of the younger ones. Mom paired off with the youngest. Each pair was given a portion of the taffy and we began pulling, folding, pulling, folding, until the taffy was ready. Then we twisted off small pieces and wrapped each piece in wax paper and dropped it in a big bowl. By the time we were through with all this our mouths were watering. Mom sat the big bowl of wrapped taffy on the table, we all ran to the bathroom to wash up again. As we settled at the table, our eyes were bright with anticipation.
Mom slowly unwrapped one piece of taffy and tasted it. She took her time chewing, looking up at the ceiling, closing her eyes, then finally swallowed as we all waited with our mouths hanging open. When Mom opened her eyes we were all staring at her. She knew we would be. If she smiled brightly, (she rarely frowned, for she was the best taffy maker) we knew the taffy turned out right and we clamored for the bowl. We each took just one piece at a time and unwrapped it slowly. We chewed it slowly, savoring that first taste and testing it just as Mom did. Heavenly! She laughed as we all tried to mimic the way she did it. Oh...those were good times back on the farm in the old days!
Molasses Taffy Recipe
3/4 cups sugar
1 & 1/2 Tbs butter
1 & 1/2 cup light Molasses
2 tsp vinegar
A drop or two of Vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients. Bring slowly to a boil (keep the kids away while cooking), stirring occasionally. Stir constantly for the last several minutes. Keep testing for readiness by dripping a very small amount of mixture into a small bowl of cold water. When it begins to form a soft ball, that is when you begin to stir constantly. When the small drop in the cold water forms a hard ball, the taffy is ready. (260 degrees if you are using a candy thermometer).
Remove from heat and beat with a strong wooden spoon for a few minutes. Pour into a greased pan (cookie sheet or cake pan) and let cool till it can be handled without burning your hands. Form mixture into ball and begin pulling taffy. Pull the taffy (stretch it out), fold it back on itself, pull, fold, pull, fold. Continue this until taffy is a light yellow in color. Break into small pieces and wrap each piece in wax paper.
Now this is one way the folks used to keep the kids in line and have fun at the same time.