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Tips for Successful Candy Making

How to successfully make homemade candy for the holidays.

Nashville, Ark. – The holidays wouldn’t be the same without all the wonderful homemade candy. Divinity, fudge, caramels, peanut brittle…the list can go on and on. Whether you are making it for gift giving, parties, or just because it is Christmas, successful candy making is relatively easy if you know the tricks of the trade.

You need a candy thermometer to be successful.

First and foremost, you should have a good candy thermometer that is accurate. This thermometer is used to test the temperature during cooking of candy, jams, and jellies. It has an adjustable clip so that it can rest against the sides of a heavy-gauge saucepan. Do not rest it on the bottom of the pan. You will get a false reading.

Candy thermometers are different. They are made of glass and have words such as hard crack, soft ball written on the side. To test the accuracy of the candy thermometer, place the bulb in a pan of rapidly boiling water. Be careful to not let the bulb touch the bottom of the pan. Read the temperature at eye level while the thermometer is in the water. It should read 212 degrees F, while the water is boiling. If it does not measure boiling temperature correctly, you will need to adjust the candy temperature during cooking to reflect the difference or purchase a new one.

Weather does matter.

Choose a dry (not humid) day for making candy. In south Arkansas, this can be a challenge. Weather can be a factor in the success of your candy. If you choose to make it on a rainy day, you may need to cook the candy a degree or two higher than stated in the recipe.

Use a heavy saucepan.

Use a heavy saucepan when making candy to prevent scorching or burning. Make sure it is large enough to prevent boiling over. You do not need to purchase a special pan, just make sure it is a heavy pan. Thin aluminum pans should be avoided when making candy.

When making fudge, be sure to bring the mixture to a full boil until it reaches 242 degrees on the candy thermometer. Fudge that does not reach this point will be sticky and soft.

Use fresh ingredients!

Use the freshest ingredients possible when making candy. If your recipe calls for butter, use it instead of margarine. Butter comes in salted and unsalted varieties. Unless your recipe calls for a specific one, either will work. Margarine and butter spreads may not be a good substitute because they do not create the right texture needed for candy. Butter also gives candy that rich, creamy taste we associate with candy.


Once you have made your candy, think about how you will store it. Most recipes make a large enough batch to last all through the holidays. For most candy, all you need to do is wrap it well in plastic wrap. Divide the candy into smaller batches and wrap. Store the wrapped candy in boxes, tins, or cartons with tight-fitting lids.

If you make small hard candies, sprinkle them with finely ground sugar (not powdered) and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Do not mix candies that absorb moisture (caramels, mints, hard candies, toffee) in the same container as candies that lose moisture (fudge, fondant, meringues). If these types of candies are mixed, the hard candies will become sticky. For fudge, it is best to use wax paper to individually wrap or separate layers in your storage container.

Candy can be frozen if needed. Be sure to package it properly, wrapped in plastic food wrap or aluminum foil, label, date, and freeze. You will need to allow it to thaw at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before serving. My mother-in-law has done this for years and always has great results. She spends a day making fudge, divides it in smaller packages, freezes it and takes it out whenever guests are expected.

Candy making is a family tradition and a holiday tradition. If you haven’t made candy before, start a new tradition at your house this year!

Don't want to do it yourself, come to the Howard County EHC Bake Sale.

 If you are still unsure about how to make candy or you do not have the time, be sure to visit the Howard County EHC Bake Sale on Friday, December 15. The sale will take place at the Howard County EHC center located behind the courthouse in Nashville. The sale will begin at 8:00 a.m. They are usually sold out by noon, so be sure to make your purchases early. They always have a huge selection of cakes, candies, pies, cookies, breads, anything you need for holiday parties. All proceeds will support Howard County EHC Educational Center. Funds are needed to repair/replace the upstairs heating and cooling systems.

Recipe of the Week - Butter Toffee Pretzels

This recipe is super easy to prepare, and it makes enough to enough throughout the holiday season. The recipe was featured at a recent EHC lesson, “Nibbles and Fixin’s for Holidays.” Everyone enjoyed it! It also makes a great gift!

  • 1 (16 oz.) bag mini pretzels   
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. butter
  • ¼ c. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 bag Heath Toffee Bits


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Pour mini pretzels into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, add brown sugar, cubed butter, and corn syrup.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes while constantly stirring.
  5. Remove from stove top and whisk in vanilla and baking soda.
  6. Pour hot toffee mixture over the pretzels and toss to coat evenly.
  7. Pour half the bag of toffee bits over the pretzels and toss again to coat evenly.
  8. Spread pretzels onto the prepared baking sheet and distribute pretzels around evenly.
  9. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  10. Once baked, remove from oven and sprinkle remaining half bag of toffee bits over the pretzels immediately.
  11. Allow pretzels to set and cool. Once set and cooled, break in small clusters.



By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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