Years ago I was in Sweden, traveling between Gottenborg and Stockholm. Along the way we stopped in a small village laid alongside a beautiful, clear, mountain lake. Granna has an old folk candy. It comes in many forms, but I so enjoyed their thick round candy canes that melted in my mouth. The candy was hard, but would yield slightly to toothy pressure. A bit more jaw and the candy would split in two, but not stick to my molars. The candy itself quickly dissolved into the essence of peppermint and then it was gone.
In the years since then I've wanted to make the candy at home, but recipes are not forthcoming; the Grannans keep it closely held.
I must warn you that this is not so much a recipe, as a journey. Here I will detail what I have learned and where I have failed. You can help by taking up the flag yourself and reporting back to me what you find. Perhaps together we can find the truth.
I posted my quest on a bulletin board in 1999 I think. A young man from Sweden responded with this recipe. You'll see later that this is not the entire story.
You will need a marble-topped table. Other plates will not be good because the mixture are very hot. All the moments have to go very fast. There should be someone that helps you so it doesn't get cold. Use powerful scissors.
Do like this:
Mix sugar and water in a high saucepan (3L). Let it stand for a moment so the sugar melt. Mess the sugar from the bottom of the saucepan and let it boil.
Pour the acetic acid mixed with the water into the syrup.
Put a thermometer into it and let it boil heavily until it becomes 150 degrees Centigrade.
During the boil, oil the marble topped table. take out dough scraper or two knives.
Pour the syrup at the marble top, but leave 1 dl in the saucepan and color it with the coloring. Place the saucepan obliquely so the syrup is gathered.
Pour the peppermint oil at uncolored syrup.
The syrup will float our and then you have to fold the edges into the middle. Continue to do this with the knives or with your hands. Work fast. You can do it in the air.
Work until it gets viscous. Put it at the hottest place on the marble top.
Put the red syrup at the marble and let it cool a little.
Form the white syrup into a fat roll. Divide the red one into four pieces and put them like striped down the roll. Pull out thin stripes from the roll and twist them a little.
Cut them into small candy pieces, put at a tray but not on top of each other.
I hope you understand what I have written. It's pretty hard to translate from Swedish into English for a 18 year old boy. If you don't manage to make the polkagris then you just can write and I send you a package with polkagrisar.
I bought pounds of sugar and gave it a shot. The first batch burned my eyes when I added the peppermint flavoring to the hot candy. It came out brittle and very much too hard. It was missing that beautiful tooth. So off I went to the internet once again.
Polkagris recipes are non-existent and I began seeking regular candy cane recipes. There are not too many of these on the web either. Gail's Recipe Swap (site long gone) gave me one of the most interesting. It brought in the additional ingredient of cream of tarter and put me on to oil based flavorings. It makes good candy canes, but not Polkagris.
Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan. Heat and stir until sugar crystals are dissolved, then stop stirring. Bring to a roiling boil and wash down the crystals, then add the cream of tarter. Boil rapidly to the hard crack stage. Pour two-thirds of the syrup out quickly onto a slab or greased flat pan. Pour the rest into a buttered glass pie pan and do not move until partly set. Turn the edges in on each portion and add flavoring to each, about 6 drops of oil to the large and 3 to the small. Add food coloring to the small dish.
As soon as humanly possible, start to pull the portion in the large container until pearly colored. The candy will be very, very hot. Butter your hands and set it down when you start to burn. Form it into a ball. Gather up the colored part and form it into a rope. Wrap the rope around the ball. With one person on each end, stretch and twist the ball in opposite directions to create a long rope with a nice stripe. Cut into lengths. When you like the diameter of the roll, form it into canes.
I hate to suggest a temperature ... Even two degrees too hot can make it virtually impossible to work with. Too cool and it doesn't set up hard, although it is still good. My second batch is always better than the first one. Hope you like it.
This recipe also brought in the idea of how careful the cook has to be with sugar crystals and formation. But it doesn't say why. This recipe made nice candy canes, but of the traditional, hard variety.
Another recipe on the web added baking soda to the mix. I tried that one and when the soda was added the mixture foamed up a bit. Maybe I'm on to something here. The bubbling foamy mixture might solidify into the right candy consistency. Thinking that this was a good starting point, I decided to start from here and carefully alter the variables one by one. Thus began my Winter of Experimentation.