Make Your Own Rock Candy

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Throughout my scholarly career, there were two things I was never any good at. Science and art. Fine, three things. I was horrific when it came to all things math, too. Until I reached college and was allowed to take logic (math with words!) and ended up being very good at it. Probably because it’s all about argumentation. Which I guess I’m good at? Oops.

My point is, this post is all about two things I’m horrible at. Science and art (well, crafts, anyway). You see, ever since I started wedding planning, I’ve been obsessed with DIYing. Seeing that I’m the least crafty person on Earth, this could get dangerous fast. Just ask Chris. Or my mom. But since I want our wedding to be completely US and made from our hearts and souls, I’m going to try my best to add little touches throughout. So, that’s where the idea for this post was born.

You see, I had a really bright idea to make our own rock candy for the wedding. That is until I realized what making rock candy entails. Basically, if we started making the rock candy now, we could probably have enough for the wedding… But much of it would likely be stale… And we would have burned through about 100 pounds of sugar. At least. So, I don’t recommend making these for your next major event. But I do recommend making them for fun. And when I say fun, I mean good old fashioned fun. Obviously. If you have kids, even better. But if not, well then you won’t have to explain all the science behind rock candy to anyone, so maybe that’s for the best.

But please know you have to be incredibly patient to make rock candy. Another trait that I apparently lack.

The process is simple. So simple, you’ll laugh at how many times I failed. But when it worked? It was pretty awesome.

Homemade Rock Candy (makes 2 rock candies):
Print the instructions!

  • 2 Wood skewers or threads
  • 2 glass jars
  • 2 C water
  • 3.5 C sugar
  • Food coloring

If you can, prepare your skewer (or thread) a day ahead of time. Simply wet it and cover it completely in sugar. Let it dry. This will allegedly help the crystals form once you place the skewer in the jar with the sugar solution. Some will tell you it’s not totally necessary, but I figured I’d do everything I could do make this thing work.

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You should also prepare your jars before starting the process. Simply take clean jars and hang your skewer from the top. As you can see, we hung the skewers from clips that balanced nicely. I’ve seen people hang string from pencils with tape and set the pencil across the top of the jar, too. Make sure the skewer or thread is hanging about an inch from the bottom of the jar.

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When you’re ready to make your rock candy, start by bringing the 2 cpus of water to boil. Easy enough, right?

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Add your sugar in cup by cup, stirring and letting each cup dissolve before adding in another.

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Continue until all 3.5 cups of sugar have absorbed.

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See how much fun I’m having? Here I’m thinking, “Wow, this is easy! Wedding rock candy, here we come!”

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Now, here’s where all the various sets of instructions I read varied. Some said to let the sugar dissolve and then turn the heat off. But I found more comments from people saying they let their sugar water boil for about 10 more minutes before turning the heat off.

So, I did that.

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After 10 minutes of boiling, I took the pot off the burner and added in my food coloring. I chose purple since it’s one of our wedding colors. And you know, I was going to make 200 rock candies for our wedding. Ahem.

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Chris joined me for my great rock candy experiment and made his own, too.

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He opted for blue. Not one of our wedding colors, but I think he already knew there was no way I was going to be making rock candy for our wedding. He may be a bit smarter than me.

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Let your sugar solution cool for about 10 minutes and then pour half of it into one of your prepared jars.

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You might want to use a funnel.

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Secure your apparatus from the top and make sure it’s sturdy. Once you have your skewer or string hanging in the jar, you shouldn’t move it at all.

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Repeat with your second jar.

We covered the jars with bags… Well, Chris put his IN bags… I put a small baggie over the top of mine. I think it’s mostly so nothing disturbs the crystals while they’re growing and dust doesn’t fall on them.

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And here’s where the waiting begins. And the confusion starts. We let them rest without touching them for about 6 days. Chris checked on his.

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And it looked like this:

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Mine? Well, mine had NO crystals. Neither of them. I let one of the jars continue to sit and for the other, I followed one tutorial’s advice, which said to dump the sugar solution back into a pot, bring back to a boil, add another cup of sugar in, let it dissolve, and put the solution back in the jar. Well, right when I turned the heat off, the solution immediately crystalized making it impossible to even pour into the jar. Sigh. I think it was on sugar overload.

We ended up going on vacation for 7 days and I left my other jar sitting. When I came back, it was HUGE. It’s that clear-looking one (apparently, I didn’t use enough food coloring) in the middle seen below. I guess in this case, patience was a virtue. And clearly, I need to go away on a week-long vacation to get that “patience.”

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I decided to try a few more batches and had the following results: One of them started growing crystals within hours and in a couple days, it was a healthy-looking rock candy. Many of them, I let sit undisturbed for 4 days before discovering the whole jar was crystalizing. As some tutorials instructed, I removed the hard pieces of sugar off the top and transferred the solution and skewer into a new, clean jar. This generally worked really well except when the crystals growing on the skewer got stuck to the ones growing on the bottom of the jar and I couldn’t for the life of me get the skewer out.

In general, one rock candy from each of my batches worked. The second either didn’t grow a thing or crystallized into the jar. I wish I could give you better reasons why, but all I can say is that making rock candy is kind of a crap shoot. Let it sit quietly undisturbed, but pay attention to it. If it’s growing crystals all over, remove them. If it’s not, don’t touch it. For at least a week.

But I suppose you DO want to know the science behind it, right? Fine. From what I learned throughout my endeavors, dissolving sugar in boiling water and then letting it cool, creates a supersaturated solution, which means the solution can’t possibly absorb the sugar at the cooler temperature. Therefore, the solution becomes unstable and all the sugar can’t stay in the liquid, so it attaches itself to the skewer or string which act as a “seed.” That’s all I got and that’s as far as my science education is going to go.

All I care about is that it’s pretty.

Dang. Rock candy is hard to photograph. Why doesn’t my camera come with a “rock candy” setting?

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Rock candy IS super easy to make and mostly just requires patience and luck, so if you have a little extra sugar lying around and want to experiment, try it out!

I don’t really have to tell you what it tastes like, now do I? It’s sugar. On a stick. And there’s really nothing better.

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Now, I’m going to start researching where we can order rock candy for our wedding :)

Have you ever made your own rock candy? Or done a science experiment as a grown up?

Also, Chels and I were just nominated as CBS Boston’s Most Valuable Lifestyle Blogger in Boston! We’d appreciate it so much if you took the time to give us a vote and told all your friends. It’s super easy and you can vote every day. Thank you so, so much!

[Sues]

41 Comments

  • Ha! I loved the rock-candy camera setting. Would love to make crystals, but not so interested in the candy eating. Sounds like a fun experiment.

    August 17, 2011 7:50 pm
  • remember as a kid how much we loved having these?
    i was horrid at making caramel until I finally got a good thermo and MADE myself set up camp at the stove to babysit the caramel.

    August 17, 2011 7:53 pm
  • i remember them making this (and peanut brittle) in science class. i was so jealous of those kids!

    August 17, 2011 7:55 pm
  • Reeni said:

    Rock candy is so pretty! I made it once when I was a kid and a trail of ants found their way to it from under my back door.

    August 17, 2011 8:41 pm
  • lena said:

    sue, this is very pretty, it’s a piece of art. just like clusters of crystals !! It’s amazing to know just by boiling sugar syrup can form into these. oh, just voted for your site. Have a happy day!

    August 17, 2011 8:43 pm
  • Katie said:

    wedding rock candy…what a cute idea! you could have jars of rock candy forming all over your house haha :)

    August 17, 2011 9:25 pm
  • SMM said:

    I only have about 65 peeps coming to my wedding. I might be able to make this happen! Thanks for the inspiration!!!

    August 17, 2011 9:26 pm
  • Erica said:

    Congrats! I will go vote now! I had no idea making rock candy was such a process! The results are so pretty! I def do not have the patience

    August 17, 2011 9:34 pm
  • Karen said:

    Hi Susie! You and Chris looked like you at least enjoyed making these! And they are so pretty. I just voted for your website, and will return tomorrow to do it again!!

    August 17, 2011 10:56 pm
  • OMG, so much fun! This would completely make me feel like a kid:-)

    August 18, 2011 7:10 am
  • Joanne said:

    Wow who knew that making rock candy was such an ordeal! But totally worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    August 18, 2011 7:26 am
  • I made rock candy once when I was about 12!! lol Your post brings back great memories of that!! And they look beautiful :)
    Congrats on being nominated.. I’m going to vote for your ladies right now!

    August 18, 2011 8:45 am
  • newlywed said:

    Well, it sure looks great! I had DIY-fever for my wedding too. Then I woke up one day and remembered how much I hate crafts. And bought everything. Except for the favors, which I cooked with my mom…because at least I like cooking!

    August 18, 2011 10:01 am
  • You definitely make this look easy – who knew that rock candy had to “grow”. It probably is a little untenable for homemade wedding favors but I’m really impressed that you did this!

    August 18, 2011 10:07 am
  • Totally did this in 3rd grade science, but think I need to do this again! So much fun :) Congrats on the nomination!

    August 18, 2011 10:46 am
  • Taryn said:

    I think your photos look great! Also, it was interesting to read about your experience making rock candy, I didn’t realize it was such a simple process, but with such varied results! Very cool.

    August 18, 2011 11:03 am
  • Megan said:

    I just bought Sugarbaby and have been planning to try the rock candy recipe just for fun. There’s a suggestion in there to use toothpicks and make mini rock candy… which could speed things up if you haven’t completely given up on making your own for your wedding.

    August 18, 2011 11:08 am
  • Bee said:

    Yumm! I never successfully made rock candy as a child, not convinced I’d be too good at it as an adult either though… haha

    August 18, 2011 12:31 pm
  • Congrats on the nomination!

    August 18, 2011 1:30 pm
  • CookiePie said:

    WOW – homemade rock candy – that is amazing! For your wedding, you can show everyone the pictures of your beautiful rock candy :)

    August 18, 2011 1:55 pm
  • How fun to make this at home, very neat!

    August 18, 2011 8:34 pm
  • Shannon said:

    how fun!! that is awesome :)

    August 19, 2011 12:12 pm
  • So excited about this post! I can’t wait to try this kitchen science project and enjoy the delicious outcome…!

    August 19, 2011 8:26 pm
  • Kerstin said:

    What a fun post – I had no idea how to make rock candy! Great wedding favor idea too :)

    August 21, 2011 11:34 pm
  • Amy said:

    Looks great! Can’t imagine making 200 of those! Man, that is a lot of sugar for so few sticks!!

    August 22, 2011 3:49 pm
  • Obviously you’re not going to make these for the wedding but at least you now know how to make them (I love discovering such things). Awesome little project! :)

    August 25, 2011 5:36 pm
  • Rozzie said:

    Wonderful post! Great to see the photos in progress and your commentary was awesome. Thanks for sharing.

    August 31, 2011 4:06 pm
  • Dorcas said:

    Ironically I had actually planned on trying this tomorrow. Last night I was looking something else up in my Joy of Cooking and thought it’d be really cool to try. I’m so glad I saw your blog because I’m going to do more investigating before I begin. My book says to take a disposable square 8″ aluminum pan, punch 7-8 holes 1/2″ up on two opposite sides. Then lace string back and forth. Then you pour sugar mixture (boiled to 250- hard ball stage) over string. String will be immersed. Then cover pan & leave undisturbed 36-48 hours at least. Then wait some more until it’s all crystalized. Cut strings and lift it out of pan. (I guess it’s solid now – idk) put on baking sheet in 200 degree oven to dry. Says to use strings as decoration or knock crystals off. Store in air tight container at room temp. Usage idea- pile crystals high in bowl at party for fancy sugar for coffee.
    I didn’t copy recipe here. Just gave you the highlights. As you can imagine I now have a headache. Lol. You used 3.5 cups of sugar. Mine is 2.5 cups sugar, 1cup water and a pinch of Cream of Tartar.

    September 24, 2011 3:04 pm
  • simone said:

    Featured you in our Food Trends article this week! Looks delicious and gorgeous. http://is.gd/WKSTQg

    October 28, 2011 9:58 am
  • Andra said:

    I have had varied luck over the last few years, making rock candy. Like yours, some stuck to the stick, some turned to a huge blob in the bottom of the jar. Luckily for me, I was making them to tie onto Christmas packages, and not for a wedding, or the pressure would have gotten to me! I ordered candy flavorings, and added it to my sugar solutions. Then co-ordinated it with the color-mint or irish cream went with green, for example. These were made to use for stirring coffee, sweetening it, and giving it some specialty flavors! A great gift in itself. If you have serious coffee drinkers on your list!

    November 13, 2011 8:21 pm
  • Charles said:

    my took 4 months…for one crystal to grow on it (:

    November 19, 2011 12:47 pm
  • Charlie said:

    This would be a great Girl Scout troop project!

    December 4, 2011 9:52 pm
  • MYT CR8TiV said:

    I made these in Science class when I was a kid. We used Hard Candy Flavoring drops to enhance the taste. You could use those so it doesn’t just taste like bland crystallized sugar.

    March 6, 2012 10:22 pm
  • Steff said:

    I just had to do a chemistry experiment dealing with recrystalization. We did the same process of boiling the water and sugar to supersaturate it, after it was completely mixed we placed the beaker in an ice bath and the crystals automatically formed. I wonder if that process would work to speed up the rock candy process.

    May 2, 2012 11:11 pm
  • Dakota said:

    Thanks, this’ll be great to try! I heard that you can flavor them with flavoring oil/extract, im not sure if I could stand pure sugar on a stick. :)

    June 25, 2012 6:25 pm
  • Kim said:

    I loveee this site! I’m using rock candy in my wedding too, Purple and White Rock Candy in a vase to make a “bouquet”. I’ve searched online for some to buy, but it is kind of expenses so I thought I would try to make my own. Sounds easy, right? HA! :)

    August 9, 2012 1:15 pm
  • Jacob Crim said:

    Could I pour the liquid into a baking sheet then break it up once its dried? I am trying to make “blue meth” like in Breaking Bad for my Halloween costume.

    October 19, 2012 10:34 am
  • Sues said:

    @Jacob- You could try! As you saw, making this wasn’t exactly easy for me… So I’d try a few batches now and hopefully one will be ready in time :)

    October 20, 2012 10:40 am
  • Jane said:

    Just a thought in candy making. I was always told to making candy on sunny days. Candy wont set up if not. I know this is true for fudge, and would make sense for this as well.

    January 19, 2013 3:25 pm
  • Thanks!!Thanks, great to try!

    May 9, 2013 9:28 pm
  • Fattaneh said:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m gonna try it and I hope the result is good.

    September 26, 2013 12:31 am

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