Christmas comes early at Doscher’s. The 145-year-old confectionery on West Court Street starts turning out candy canes in June.
The work can be sticky: Modern dehumidifiers suck the air dry in summer so that the canes are crisp and chewy, not brittle. Otherwise, the process is as old as the company itself. Sugar and water are cooked in a vintage copper kettle. Each 83-pound log of silky sweetness is kneaded on the kind of heated table that the Doscher family used for generations, then spun on an old-fashioned taffy puller, flavored with real peppermint oil, colored, twisted, stretched, cut to size, and hand-shaped.
Current owners Greg Clark, Chip and Robin Nielsen, and Amy and Kevin Gilligan all pitch in, but it’s Clark who is the champion “hooker.” The canes’ crooks must be bent super-fast, before the candy hardens, and “Greg can do 60 a minute,” says Chip Nielsen.
Mistakes are pulverized into “peppermint dust,” a substance that sounds (and smells) totally addictive. Nielsen says the company will be selling bags of the stuff at Kroger stores this season. Sweet.