It is important to know the candy syrup stages so that you can test your candy until it becomes the right consistency.
You don't have to memorize these rules, but keep a copy close by to refer to as needed when testing candy.
Testing Candy with a Thermometer
The best way to test candy is with a candy thermometer. They are not very expensive and make your job a whole lot easier. Invest in a heavy gauge candy thermometer. You'll be glad you did.
You can get a candy thermometer and a lot of other candy making supplies at Candyland Crafts. I love their selection AND their prices. :)
Thread 230 - 234 F.
Soft Ball 234 - 240 F.
Firm Ball 242 - 248 F.
Hard Ball 250 - 268 F.
Soft Crack 270 - 290 F.
Hard Crack 300 - 310 F.
Testing Candy with the Cold Water Method
If you do not have a candy thermometer, I am happy to tell you that you can still indulge in candy making. You can perform the cold water test. It is a little more tricky, but easy enough once you learn how it works.
Remove candy from the heat. Using a clean spoon, drop a small amount of the hot mixture into a cup of very cold water.
Examine the syrup and compare it to the chart below to determine which candy syrup stage you are at.
Thread - Syrup forms a thin thread as it is poured into the water.
Soft Ball - Syrup will form a ball in the water, but when picked up flattens quite easily when removed from the water.
Firm Ball - Syrup will form a ball in the water and will hold its shape until it warms up.
Hard Ball - Syrup will form a ball and hold its shape even when pressed, but remains sticky.
Soft Crack - Syrup will separate into threads that are hard but not brittle.
Hard Crack - Syrup will separate into hard and brittle threads.
Testing candy with this method requires patience. You need to test it every 2-3 minutes until you reach the candy syrup stage called for in your recipe.
Use a clean spoon and fresh water for every test.
Don't get discouraged. Homemade candy is well worth this extra bit of effort.
Go ahead and pick out a candy recipe and give it a try. Like mom always says, "Practice makes perfect."