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How to Make Candy – Sugar Lessons in Sweden

How to make candy - heartPicture the scene. You’re walking through a Swedish market, your young daughter holding your hand. She sees row upon row of sweet candy canes, bright luminescent swirls of sugar and mint that gleam in scarlet and white, holly leaf and ivy, forming hearts and stars, curled canes and smooth drops before her very eyes.

She looks up to you and says (and you may need to concentrate for this part), “Daddy, do you know how to make candy?”

“Of course,” you reply, faster than chocolate melts on a hot summer’s day. “What’s more, I’ll learn how to become a master craftsman and open my own shop in the southern Swedish town of Malmo.”

Isn’t that what any father would do?


Well, that’s exactly what one father did in the Swedish region of Skåne.

How to Make Candy

Henrik opens the door one Sunday morning and ushers us all in. It’s December, it’s early and the day has barely entered into its teenage years. It would be perfect to say that snow (or at the very least frost) dusted the streets like icing sugar from the gods but the gods weren’t playing along. It was winter, yes, cold yes, but when it came to atmospheric precipitation, absolutely not.

The shop, on the other hand, did oblige with lashings and lashings of fairytale charm.

Flasks of violet and lemon liquid stood watchful on the shelves. Glass jars brimmed with round raspberry drops, flanked on either side by haughty humbugs. A fresh sweetness filled the air; a light stickiness coated the floor.

In the shop window, gingerbread elves called out to imaginary passersby, while back on the inside, it was strictly down to business.

Henrik, as you may have guessed, doesn’t do things by halves. Before this, he worked as a nurse anaesthetist in the helicopter rescue service in London, a job requiring precision and efficiency, which he brings to the task in hand.

How to make candy montage

Heating Up

Here in Skåne, he watches the thermometer closely, as the sugary solution begins to bubble.

We’ve added a tablespoon of vinegar to over a kilo of sugar beet, splashed in 250 mls of water (from Skåne, naturally) and sloshed into that a healthy squirt of starch.

The mixture bubbles slowly as we wait for it to reach the 150 °C mark.

We wait. I take photos. Thus far, it’s as exciting as boiling potatoes.

I glance around the shop. I send a tweet or two.

All of a sudden, things change.

How to make candy pouring and sticking


“Stand back!”

“Stand back!” roars Henrik, grasping the pan with both hands and pouring its contents over the marble. The syrup traps the bubbles, frothing and foaming them into an ever expanding whirlpool, as a molten sugar waterfall cascades down on top of them.

I stand back.

And then lean in to take photos.

Henrik tames the mixture into two even-sized trays. To one, he adds a few drops of Hotchkiss peppermint; to the other, some lice blood.

Lice blood?

Lice blood?

The fairytale has changed, the villains have arrived, sweeping in on broomsticks and wild dragons, squeezing ferrous lifeblood out of detested infestations.

Perhaps I’ve misheard. Perhaps something has come undone in translation.

“I, er, wonder if you could spell ‘lice blood’ for me?”

“L-I-C-E B-L-O-O-D.”

“Oh, I see. Yes. Thank you very much.”

I pretend to write it down and vow to consult the sorcerer Google later on.

How to make candy roll

The Lice Blood Effect

The lice blood, meanwhile, has turned one pool of sugar a deep, malevolent red. Henrik folds the mixture over and over itself to a rhythmic tak-tak-tak as the sugar sticks and unsticks, sticks and unsticks to the protective layer of plastic around it.

After a while, he uses only his gloved hands, folding and folding the stickiness until it forms meshed golden strands of angel-light hair. He hangs that lightness on a metal hook on the wall, twisting it back and forth, around and around, up and down, becoming breathless with the effort of creating magic.

Back on the marble, the colours have changed again, to a fuchsia pink and a soft cotton white. Henrik rolls them out like plasticine – and then it is our turn.

He snips the sugar caterpillar into chunks for us to play with.

My imagination ran wild. I dreamed of @insidetravellab candy, heart-shaped candy, my name and those of my family spelled out in loopy home-cooked genius.

My hands got to work.

The Secret to Making Candy – Move Fast

There is a grace, as ever, that descends on those with talent, one that rarely lands on me.

As it turns out, molten sugar cools really very quickly. And as it does, it turns to stone. Not for nothing is Brighton Rock called rock.

Since sugar solidifies faster than my neurons transmit information, my only hope was to shove a lollipop stick into the shapeless blob on the counter and mutter something about it being “impressionistic art.”

How to make candy roll

Ah well, something to tackle on perhaps another day. Along with finding out about lice blood. Then again, maybe it’s better not to know.

Do you know how to make candy? (And does your recipe include lice blood?)

Disclosure: I visited the gorgeous SveasKaramellKokeri as a guest of VisitSkåne. All views and misshapen sweets are all mine…Although a few really uneven ones belong to Kash, Chris, Monica or Ruth ;)

Making Candy Sveas

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22 Responses to How to Make Candy – Sugar Lessons in Sweden

  1. Camels & Chocolate March 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    Ahhh this is SO fun. I had a bit of an intro candy making session with my MIL last summer, but I would love to learn how to do lollipops. (I think yours looks lovely!)

    • Abi March 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

      They’re perhaps what you’d expect to see at a kindergarten sweet shop but we had fun making them nonetheless!

  2. Stephanie - The Travel Chica March 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    It’s like making art!

    • Abi March 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Yep! I’m not too good at that either ;)

  3. Sophie March 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Lice blood, eh? Always knew those Swedes were up to funny stuff :)

    • Abi March 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

      Ha! Is that a regional joke?

  4. Simon March 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Insect blood sounds so much more clinical when they call it cochineal, no?

    • Abi March 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

      Yes, cochineal sounds so much better ;-)

  5. Cole @ Four Jandals March 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    YUM! Looks amazingly delicious. Have visited chocolate factories in Belgium and Canada but not a traditional sweet shops.

    • Abi March 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      Hm. I could do with visiting more chocolate factories…They sound pretty good!

  6. Ayngelina March 14, 2012 at 4:31 am #

    Wow I have so much more respect for candy making and I’m all the more certain I have no future in it!

    • Abi March 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

      You and I could have a “who can make the most lopsided concoction” competition!

  7. Erica March 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    I fail at things like this that require finesse.

    • Abi March 16, 2012 at 8:46 am #

      Finesse and speed. A deadly combination!

  8. Hogga March 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    How about you make it and I’ll eat it? I like to help out any way I can…

    • Abi March 17, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

      Deal! (I ate so much of it afterwards, I could do with a few years of abstinence ;) )

  9. Abby March 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    Those big logs of dough (?) are so cool-looking! Your lollipops came out great!

    • Abi April 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

      Hmm…yes, the worst offenders didn’t make it to the photoshoot!

  10. Daniel Meloy April 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    This is so amazing! Such a cool process with such beautiful (and delicious) results! I used to work in a small chocolate shop, where we made everything from scratch, including our caramel and toffee! It was heaven on Earth. Now I just want to go work in a candy shop though! Do you think it’d be practical to try to make something like this at home? It seems like you’d need a pretty good setup.

  11. Jennifer August 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Wow, looks like fun! Tried with my mom once, but.. yeah… lol

    Liceblood? Ooooh gosh! LOL

  12. Danny Selvag May 19, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    I have eaten these all my life but never knew how they were made. Thanks!

    • Abi King May 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      You’re welcome!