My family has been making homemade candy for generations. My great-grandmother spent holiday seasons creating hard candy confections over a gas stove. When my grandmother was old enough to help, she watched as her mother poured the hot liquid candy out onto a marble slab. My grandma would then carefully covered the glistening hot candy with powdered sugar. Fast forward to today, and now I’m helping my grandmother make hard candy, patiently waiting to add one of the all-important LorAnn Oils flavorings to our hot sugar syrup.
My family, and thousands more, flavor their homemade candy with Michigan-based LorAnn Oils. Mr. O.K. Grettenberger started bottling and selling essential oils and flavorings in the basement of his Okemos house in 1962, naming the business after his wife and daughter, Laura and Ann, respectively. Starting with 12 original flavors, LorAnn Oils now makes almost 80 different flavorings, ranging from almond to peach-mango to watermelon.
Grettenberger originally sold his oils from his pharmacy on the corner of Okemos Road and Hamilton Road in Meridian Township. Back then, my great-grandmother only had to walk four short minutes from her doorstep to get peppermint and cinnamon oils for her homemade candy. Now, they’re located on the south side of Lansing in a state of the art facility. Business is so good in fact that they just announced that they’re expanding. Their Aurelius Rd. location will add 7,000 sq. ft. to their facility and additional employees.
Today, LorAnn Oils’ flavors travel well beyond the borders of Michigan. Manufacturing moved from the old farmhouse to a state-of-the-art facility on Aurelius Road in Lansing. Their familiar one dram (one teaspoon) bottles are sold in businesses big and small, both across the country and in forty countries around the world.
Although LorAnn is an international company, I like being able to still buy their flavorings at my local cake decorating store in Swartz Creek. Lovegrove’s has a large selection, and they’re also the only place that I know that rents their collection of cake pans! I stopped there to buy supplies for my afternoon of homemade candy making with my grandmother. In full truth, this was my first attempt at making lollipops. The staff was great in suggesting candy molds, thermometers and had lots of tips to share.
Making Homemade Candy
There are two types of molds for homemade candy. One is for hard candy, and one is for chocolate candy. Hard candy, such as a lollipop, is made with hot sugar syrup heated to 300 degrees. Accidentally put that in a clear mold meant for chocolate, and you will have a hot, plastic-melted mess. (You can, however, make molded chocolates in hard candy molds.)
For my first foray into making hard candy, I chose cherry and blueberry flavorings. These flavors are perfect to represent our Awesome Mitten, as they’re some of the biggest agricultural exports in Michigan. The lollipops we made with the blueberry flavoring reminded of blue, sweet cotton candy from my childhood. Yum!
Truth be told, making hard candy is tricky. One batch I overcooked, and another batch I undercooked. I had the most success with the microwave method found on LorAnn Oils website.
Making chocolate homemade candy was MUCH easier. To make filled homemade chocolates, you melt chocolate disks, either in a double boiler or microwave. Then you pour a small amount into the mold and gently brush some of the chocolate up the side with a small paint brush. Chill the mold in the fridge for a few moments, then gently add your filling, and top off with more melted chocolate. Place the mold in the fridge again so the chocolate will set. And that’s it!
You can add LorAnn Oil flavorings to any cream filling to create a world of different chocolates. I chose to fill my first batch with a homemade peppermint cream, and I filled a few others with Sunbutter (like peanut butter, but it’s made from sunflower seeds as an allergen-free alternative). You can also add flavorings directly to the melted chocolate and pour into lollipop molds. With flavorings like almond, cherry, coconut and more, the combinations are endless!
LorAnn Oils can be found online or at 4518 Aurelius Rd., Lansing MI, 48910.
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