Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/805

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
783
A PAPER OF CANDY.

its succeeding treatment, which consists chiefly of a series of filtrations (through cloth bags and hone-black), pass down from story to story by its own gravity. After the liquor has been passed through charcoal it is boiled to evaporate the water, then crystallized, the molasses or "sugar-drip" drained off, and the residuum of sugar dried in a centrifugal machine.

The philosophy of the action of heat on boiling sugar and water is by all odds the most curious and important matter connected with the making of confections. Put a little water and crushed sugar into a clean brass kettle, and note the changes which ensue when it is placed over a brisk tire. First, when the sugar is dissolved, we have what is called "simple sirup"; continue the boiling a little longer, and the liquor, if cooled, will deposit its excess of sugar on the sides and bottom of the vessel in the form of rock-candy; boil a little longer, and the sugar shows an inclination for the granular condition; longer still, and it forms a thick, pasty, transparent mass; longer yet, and it "caramels," or turns yellow and then brown. This whole series of processes, or states, is technically divided by the confectioner into nine degrees, which form his nine mysteries, his nine points of the law. These degrees are styled the "small thread" and "large thread," the "little pearl" and "large pearl," the "blow," the "feather," the "ball," the "crack," and the "caramel," all of which are produced by a heat ranging from 230° to 260° Fahr. In the thread degree the sugar threads or strings when held up in the air by the fingers; the blow is so called from the workman dipping his skimmer into the liquor, draining it, and then blowing through the holes; if small, sparkling bubbles are seen on the farther side of the skimmer, the sirup is known to be in the "blow" degree; when in the "feather," the sirup hangs from the skimmer like flying floss, and is then said by the French to be "à la grande plume"—it is the point of crystallization; in the "ball" degree it makes hard balls when rolled between the fingers; in the "crack" it snaps like a clay pipe-stem—it now tends to grain; the ninth or caramel degree was discovered, or first intelligently noted, by Count Albufage Caramel, of Nismes, The greater part of our candies are made from sirup which has passed the eighth or crack degree (250° Fahr.), and the skill of the artist is shown in bringing his sirup as near as he possibly can to the caramel (260° Fahr.) without permitting it actually to reach that undesirable point; for, when sirup begins to caramel, it becomes quickly dark-colored, froths up and fills the kettle, emits puffs of smoke, and acquires a bitter taste: the sugar is then called "burnt sugar," although it is not really burned.

But it is high time we saw the magician at work. His manufacturing-room may look a little like an alchemist's den, if you choose. Here arc large coppered kettles, full of steaming sirup; there, men are at work picking up Malaga grapes with a fine pair of nippers and dipping them into creamed sugar; at yonder table one is cutting up a