Once, candy canes didn't have stripes

The sweet, peppermint taste and distinctive shepherd's-staff shape of candy canes has been enjoyed by people around the world for centuries. Originally, though, candy canes were little more than small sticks of hardened sugar.

Around 1670, when candy canes were first said to be enjoyed, a choirmaster at Germany's Cologne Cathedral used these sugar sticks to keep young singers quiet during long ceremonies.

In 1847, August Imgard, a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio, bent one end of the sugar sticks so that they would hang on the ends of tree limbs. He then decorated a blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes.

It wasn't until the end of the 19th century that the red and white stripes and peppermint flavor became the norm.

Today, sugar and corn syrup are heated in large kettles and then vacuum-cooked. The candy is poured onto a cooling table where peppermint flavoring and starch are added.

A kneader mixes the flavoring and candy together until it's golden. Then the mix is placed into a puller until it turns white. After it's made into a log-like shape, the red stripes are separately formed and placed on the log. A twister twists the white and red ropes of candy together, forming the characteristic white and red swirl.

Finally, the candy is snipped into sticks with a bend at the top.

National Candy Cane Day is Dec. 26.

Source: 'Lyrics, Legends, and Lore of Christmas,' by Alice E. Adamek.

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