It’s difficult to imagine a colorful, crunchy candy cane ever resembling “hot earwax,” as Tai Kralis jokingly calls it. But that’s just the initial melt-down of sugar and water.
Kralis, Noah Suitors and other McCord Candies employees eventually work their magic on hand-pulled candy canes, a tradition at the iconic downtown shop at 536 Main St. in Lafayette.
“We’re one of five stores left in the United States to pull their own candy canes,” said owner Ken Bootsma, a residential Tipmont REMC customer who bought McCord Candies in June with his wife, Denise. “Last year, 47,000 candy canes were made.”
Ken and Denise have remodeled the space — a candy shop since 1912 — but haven’t changed the time-tested candy cane recipe, secret ingredient and all. They also sell candy cane chips (popular to melt in coffee) and hot chocolate mix with candy cane flavor.
Kralis and Suitors are among those helping the Bootsmas learn the process in their first holiday season. They know how to warm, knead, hook, pull, twist, cut, shape and bag like the backs of their dyed-red hands.
“We generally do three to four batches a night and get 1,000 canes,” said Kralis, a senior studying organizational leadership at Purdue University.
Get a look for yourself. Kitchen tours are available from 6 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23. Prices range from $2 (the tour and a cane) to $7 (which includes lunch).
“Kids’ eyes go wide, and for adults, it’s not what they think it’s going to be,” Kralis said.
“I love the memories,” Suitors said. “Grandparents bring grandkids and talk about how they remember coming here when they were little. It’s a great Lafayette tradition and institution.”
Nick Rogers is communications coordinator for Purdue Extension.