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Make Rock Candy

Rock Candy For centuries people have been attracted to the sweet taste of sugar. Sugar from sugar cane, grown in areas with tropical climates, has been used since at least 300 A.D. In Michigan, Native American peoples made the first sugar—maple sugar from the sap of maple trees. In the 1700s a German chemist discovered sugar in beets. Farmers in the thumb area of Michigan began growing sugar beets in 1896. Michigan's "thumb" became the home to sugar companies such as Pioneer Sugar and Monitor Sugar in the early 20th century.

Whether produced from maple trees, sugar cane or sugar beets, sugar is one of the main ingredients in candy. Rock candy is crystallized sugar that's fun to eat. Here's a recipe for making Rock Candy at home.

You can add mint and other flavors to your candy. Learn more about mint by reading Mint in Michigan.

You will need:

An adult to help you

You will need to boil water and sugar together on a stove and pour it into a glass jar to do this project. If spilled, this mixture can cause VERY BAD BURNS. Be careful!

These utensils

  • Measuring cup and spoon
  • Large heavy metal sauce pan
  • Long wooden stirring spoon
  • Clean glass jar (a tall, sturdy one such as a pint or quart canning jar, mayonnaise jar or pickle jar)
  • Piece of cotton string (clean!)
  • Popsicle stick, pencil, or skewer
  • Paper clip
  • Thick pot holders
  • Candy thermometer

These ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • A few drops of your favorite candy flavoring such as peppermint, cherry or lemon, more drops = stronger flavor (optional)
  • A few drops of food coloring, more drops = darker color (optional)


Rock Candy Pieces

  1. Tie one end of the piece of string around the middle of the stick or pencil. Cut the string, if necessary, so that it is a little shorter than your jar.
  2. Moisten the string with a little water and roll it in the sugar. Put the paper clip on the end of the string to help it hang straight down. Lay the stick over the top of the glass jar so that the string hangs down inside the jar. The end of the string should not touch the bottom of the jar.
  3. Cook the candy mixture. (Here's where you need an adult to help!)
    1. Put the cup of water into the sauce pan and heat until it boils.
    2. Add 2 cups of sugar to the boiling water while stirring. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. (If you have a candy thermometer the temperature of the sugar water should reach 240 degrees Fahrenheit.)
    3. Remove pan from heat. If you want to add flavoring or color, stir it in now.
    4. Pour the hot mixture into the jar.
  4. Let the sugar water sit for a few days where no one will bother it. The crystals will begin to form along the string in a few hours. Let them grow for 3 to 10 days (or more). There are two things that will make the largest crystals:
    1. Making a thick sugar water mixture (Be sure you put in the whole 2 cups of sugar, or even a little more.)
    2. Letting them grow for more days
  5. When you're ready to eat the rock candy, take the candy-covered string out of the jar. Break the pieces apart and enjoy. Store left-over candy in a covered container. (Some adults like to flavor tea or coffee by putting a piece of rock candy in the cup. Maybe you shouldn't use purple coloring if you want to share your candy with them!)
  6. Remember to brush your teeth!

Contact the Michigan Historical Museum.

Updated 09/10/2010

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