I love making pretty things. I also love making unexpected things. In this case, it's a win-win. These candies are easy, beautiful, and delicious. Nobody expects to receive homemade jellied candies as a gift, and recipients are always pleasantly surprised.
An interesting note about these candies is that they really taste better after sitting around for a few days, so make them in advance if possible for the best flavor and texture.
Another great thing about homemade candies is that you can use real flavorings. No artificial flavors here! Just natural lemon juice, sugar, and unflavored gelatin to firm things up. For the best flavor, you want to be sure to use both the juice and the zest of the lemon. When the zest hits the hot sugar mixture, it gives off its oils to impart a wonderful citrus zing.
Remember, unflavored gelatin has to be softened in a cool liquid before it can be melted in a hot liquid. Here I have softened the gelatin in the lemon juice and a little bit of water. Stir well to avoid lumps in the final product.
Prepare your molding pan in advance. While this recipe doesn't require you to be as quick as some hot sugar candies, you still want to get it into the mold in a timely fashion. You can use whatever pan you want, but I always try and find one with the sharpest corners and edges I can. These are going to be cut into squares, so really rounded edges make square shapes difficult. Spray the pan with cooking spray and then line with some parchment. Be sure the parchment comes up high enough that you can use it to help you lift out the candies when firm. It's also important to spray the parchment surface itself. This candy is sticky!
Boil the sugar and half a cup of water together in a sauce pan. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and then do not stir again until you are adding the remaining ingredients. Bring the sugar mixture to 255 degrees F on a candy thermometer. It can take a while, so be patient. I usually have my burner on medium-high.
Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin and the zest. Stir completely and pour into the mold. Let the mold sit at room temperature for at least four hours or overnight.
Pour enough sanding sugar onto the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet to cover the bottom. Carefully remove the sheet of very gummy candy onto the sugar. I pull the whole thing out of the molding pan using the parchment and then invert the candy onto the sugar so I can then pull the parchment off. It may help to trim the parchment edges before you try to invert the mess onto the sugar. Spray a pizza cutter with oil and cut the candy into strips. Then cut across to form squares. Roll each square completely in the sugar to coat all sides. This is extremely important, otherwise your candy will become one giant sticky mess.
Spread the candy out with all the excess sugar on a sheet pan to dry for 24 hours. Rotate the candy once or twice during this drying period. After twenty four hours, the outside will be slightly rigid but the inside will still be very springy. Place the candies into an air tight container and let them sit another two days before serving or gifting. After these two days, the moisture content will have evened out and the candies will have a wonderful texture and flavor and you'll be proud to present them to your friends and family!
Lemon JelliesYield: 3-4 dozen candies
2 1/2 TBS unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 TBS lemon zest
2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
2 drops food coloring
1 to 2 cups sanding sugar, for coating (see note below)
In a small bowl, mix together the gelatin, 1/4 cup water, and lemon juice. Stir until they are well mixed and set aside so the gelatin can soften.
Prepare an 8x8 inch pan (or similar area pan) by spraying the inside with oil. Then line with parchment across one direction, leaving the edges sticking up to use as handles after the candy has firmed. Spray the top of the parchment as well so that the candy releases easily from the parchment sheet.
Then mix the 2 cups of sugar and a 1/2 cup of water in a heavy duty sauce pan and attach a candy thermometer. Heat the mixture over medium to medium-high heat, stirring only until the sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 255 degrees F on a thermometer.
Remove the hot candy from the heat and add the softened gelatin and the lemon zest. Stir until well mixed and pour into the prepared pan. Let sit at room temperature for four hours or overnight to harden. Only cover loosely if you feel the need to cover it while it sets.
Sprinkle the sanding sugar into a rimmed cookie sheet. Loosen the edges of the firmed candy with a knife and use the parchment to lift the mass out. Handle carefully so that the sheet of candy does not tear. Lay face down onto the sanding sugar and remove the parchment sheet. Sprinkle some more sanding sugar over the top to minimize its stickiness. Use an oil coated pizza cutter to cut the candy into strips and then squares. Dip each square into the sugar to coat all sides completely.
Leave candy out on baking sheet to dry for twenty four hours, turning the squares occasionally. After twenty four hours, you can separate the candy from the loose sugar and store in an air tight container for two days before serving or gifting to allow the moisture to redistribute evenly through the candies and to let the flavor develop fully.
NOTE: You can roll the candies in regular sugar if you want, but I find the slightly larger grain sanding sugar makes them look nicer and helps keep them from becoming too sticky in storage.
*If you are interested in making lime and/or orange flavored jellies too, check out this post with pictures of a nice yellow, green, and orange assortment of candies, and this post discussing the minor changes in the recipe for best results.*