This summer our family sent in massive amounts of postcards to Nelson’s Candy Kitchen in the hopes of winning the Candy Cane Workshop lottery. Every year, Nelson’s Candy Kitchen in Columbia draws postcards for the opportunity for a few groups to come in and learn to make candy canes from scratch. Of course, because of the danger of working with molten sugar, the guests only get to twist and shape the candy… not actually boil or stretch it. But you do get an up close view of how it’s done and you can ask as many questions as you like during the process.
Only about 16 groups are invited to participate in this special event each year. And this year, we were one of those lucky groups! My parents won the lottery and invited: the three of us, my older brother and his daughter (my niece), my younger brother and his sweet girlfriend, my cousin, my grandmother, and our neighbor’s family of three.
The best part is seeing all the old candy equipment that they still use every day. Most of the equipment is over 100 years old! Just incredible! The giant copper pots and the original Columbia marble tables were just a wonder to look at. It was also great to hear that most all of the candy makers are from the original Nelson family. One gentleman that was showing us around was a fifth-generation candy maker! Now that is a profession I can get behind.
If you want to put your name in for next year, all the information you need can be found on the Nelson’s Candy Kitchen website. Nelson’s was named USA Today’s Top Ten Candy Shops for their homemade candies (which are beyond delicious). If you are ever near Columbia State Historic Park in Columbia, California, stop by! I guarantee it is worth it.
The red sugar is added to the main block in stripes and it is all wiped down with a bit of natural beeswax to keep moisture from ruining the candy canes. This machine keeps the candy block warm and pliable and also stretches the block out so individual candy canes can be snipped off with giant scissors. This machine just had its 100th birthday a year or so ago.