Since 1920, this Denver candy maker has been churning out sweets, and every holiday season they put out a fleet of candy canes, with varied flavors and colors and permutations. The confectioners take the process of candy making seriously, with the hard candies undergoing a long process of precision heating, melting, kneading, rolling, reheating, and eventually hand shaping the various stripes of flavored and colored caramelized sugar into the recognizable crooked cane known so well – almost shepherding in the Christmas season.
And that brings up the obscure history of the candy cane. It came about as a bribe of sorts to boisterous children attending church in Germany in the 1600’s . The candy: to pacify kids during Christmas mass. The justification: it’s shaped like a crosier, the symbolic shepherd’s crook carried by a bishop (incidentally, the crosier is also the namesake of lacrosse, bestowed by French Jesuits upon the Iroquois sport for similar reasons). The canes were didactic – instructive in nature from an authority perspective – but as every kid knows, they were really just fun. The canes stuck. Hanging perfectly from the boughs of trees. Splaying from the top of a stocking. The colors seemed to match Santa’s.
Hammond’s confectioners, like the confectioners of most great candy makers, take years to perfect their craft. And the candy cane remains one of the more complicated hard candies to fashion. As the sugars cool from molten softness to the brittle hard of the finished candy, working with it is akin to working with glass. Deft hands have to preen and tease the material. Reheat it along a table lined with specialize gas burners. Roll it and caress it into the familiar stripes. Give it a hook. This all has to be completed within a certain temperature and moisture range. Hammond’s candy canes are a Cadillac of candy canes, and are still made the old fashioned way.