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.
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.
When you're ready to make your rock candy, start by bringing the 2 cpus of water to boil. Easy enough, right?
Add your sugar in cup by cup, stirring and letting each cup dissolve before adding in another.
Continue until all 3.5 cups of sugar have absorbed.
See how much fun I'm having? Here I'm thinking, "Wow, this is easy! Wedding rock candy, here we come!"
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.
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.
Chris joined me for my great rock candy experiment and made his own, too.
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.
Let your sugar solution cool for about 10 minutes and then pour half of it into one of your prepared jars.
You might want to use a funnel.
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.
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.
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.
And it looked like this:
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."
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?
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.
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?