Here's the basic recipe; 3 tsp's powdered sugar, 3 tsp's pulverized table sugar, & 1 tsp honey.
The reason we take the time to pulverize the sugar, is "texture". You can put 1 cup of table sugar in a blender and pulverize the granules. It won't take much blending to create the texture we want. The sugar in the blender will get packed at the bottom as it turns powdery. Shake it lose, blend, shake lose, blend. Turn off blender. Feel the texture of the sugar. It should be half way between powdered sugar and normal table sugar. If you just use straight table sugar to make your Queen candy, it's too grainy....to much texture. By taking the time to pulverize some table sugar, we now have enough textured sugar to make an excellent Queen candy. When mixed with powdered sugar, this gives us just the right consistency and texture that we're looking for in our candy. It's worth doing.
The plate shown below, has the 3 tsp's of powdered sugar and 3 tsp's pulverized sugar. Notice how the powdered sugar holds the form of the tsp., the pulverized sugar does not. This is what you're looking for.
Mix these sugars together with a fork, mix them well. Make a crater in the middle of this pile of sugar.
In this crater, pour the 1 tsp of honey.
Use your finger to get all the honey off the tsp. And lick finger completely clean! ha!
This mix is now ready to work. Although it looks as if this is not enough honey, for what you are to mix, DO NOT add more honey than 1 tsp. This is enough honey to get the consistency that we need to make good Queen candy.
Use the side of your fork to work the sugar OVER and ON TO the honey. Don't smash it just yet, otherwise you'll have a mess on your fork. Just use the side of your fork to CUT the sugar into the honey.
With your fork, pull the sugar from the side of the plate and work it into the honey.
Now the candy is taking shape. Keep scraping and working sugar into candy. You can even flip this candy over several times.
Now use your fork to apply some pressure to the candy in order to suck up more sugar. Press firmly and flip this candy, using your fork to manipulate the candy. It will seem as if you didn't put in enough honey....it's fine....just keep working in the lose sugars.
Now it should be firm enough for you to pick up with your fingers and begin to work, or knead, the candy with your fingers.
Fold the candy into itself, pressing with your fingers and working the lose sugar into the candy.
Press firmly, and keep folding and working the lose sugar. Don't give up just yet, and DO NOT add any more honey.
The candy has now changed colors and should look just like what you see in the picture above. But there is still more lose sugar to suck up on the plate.
Take a moment, and use a damp wash cloth to wash off your sticky fingers. Dry your fingers. This helps you handle the ball of candy without it sticking to your fingers any longer. Strange, but it works.
Now fold and press, fold and press.....and fold and press. Your objective now, is to get all the lose sugar OFF the plate and into the ball of candy.
You can see the tips of my fingers, how firmly you have to press. It may seem tiring to your hands, but this is the very best way to get some good Queen candy made up. The reason being, is so you can FEEL what your doing. We're using our fingers to feel what the candy is like, it's texture.
Take this lump of candy and roll it in your hands to form a ball.
Pretty uh? Looks nice! Let this ball of candy set in the middle of the plate for a little bit. If your hands are sticky, use the wash cloth, wipe them again and dry your hands. We want this ball of candy to be able to hold it's shape for the most part. We don't want the ball to go too limp. We want it to hold it's form. This tells us that we have some good Queen candy, and it won't soften too much in the cage and run all over the Queen inside.
Roll this ball of candy in your hands, into a ROLL.
Pinch off 5 equal size pieces of candy. This recipe will make 5 candy plugs, for the standard size wooden Queen cages.
The candy is done, set it to the side. Get your wooden queen cage and find the end that has the SLITS on the side of the wood. Usually, there is a small sliver of wood that needs to be CLEARED from this slit. Use your fork, and CLEAR OUT this slit. The slit in the side of the wood is there for a reason. In case the queen cage is placed in the hive in such a way as to close off the screened side of the cage, the Queen still has a way to breath. Sometimes, beekeepers place this cage in between frames the wrong way. The screen should be left UNCOVERED and facing the center of the brood nest. This is an important step. Make sure that these 2 slits are clear of any blockage!
After you've cleared the slits in the side of the cage, find the OPPOSITE end. This is the hole where the candy will be placed. If you look closely, these three holes are NOT all the same size. The hole that takes the candy, is a bit smaller than the other two holes. Set this small ball of candy in the SMALLER of the 3 holes. If you set the candy in the other end of the cage, you'll then cover the 2 slits....which you just cleared. The Queen needs to BREATH.
Using your fingers, work this candy into this hole. Pressing it hard enough to push some of the candy out the small hole on the end of the cage. With your fingers, work it smooth and even with the top of the cage and end hole.
Check to see that the candy has now protruded out this small hole, but DO NOT let the candy push out beyond the edge of this hole. Using the tip of your finger, push some of this candy BACK IN.....so that the candy has not protruded from this small hole. The reason being; when this small amount of candy comes in contact with something, it makes a bit of a mess, sticking to whatever it touches.
If you feel that the ball of candy was a bit too big for the hole, and you can't get it all worked into the hole evenly, use your fingers and pinch off a small amount. Set this small amount of candy on the plate to be used with the other cages.
Work this candy smooth on the inside. Form it on the inside evenly. Just remember, the more candy you put in the hole, means that this is just that much more candy that the bees have to eat through in order to release the Queen. If this "candy hole" is evenly filled with candy, this is enough candy for the bees to eat through in a few days or more. No need to add more candy than what this hole will take.
Take a moment and look at your work! Nice! Time to place the screen on top.
Using a hand held staple gun, place 6 staples on the screen. This is the tricky part. There isn't much room for stapling this screen on the cage. I start with the candy end of the cage. All I need to do is catch the corners of the screen in order to keep the screen down. The issue is, I can't let a staple protrude down through the small holes on the end of the cage, where the Queen comes out, or goes in. If so, this could damage, or injure a Queen only to be superseded later on.
Do the best you can to place the staple on the side, just enough to catch part of the screen.
If the staple doesn't go down all the way, use the back side of your fork to PUSH the staple down. It will pop down, with a bit of force.
This is what it should look like from above. Notice the placement of the staples.
Look at the end, check the holes to make certain that the staples have not protruded down through these small holes on both ends. If so, remove the staple and do it again. You don't want to injure a Queen when she comes out, or goes in.
Check the candy end also. If there is a staple which has come down through this candy hole, take the time to remove the staple and do it again.
You're done! You've made a nice candy cage for a Queen and a few attendants. I'll do 5 cages at a time, over the weeks I'll make up more cages. I'll store my cages in an old plastic ice cream tub, 1 gallon size, and place a damp wash cloth over the top of the cages, placing the tub in the frig too keep moist. Later, when I'm ready to use them, I'll take them from the frig the day before and let the cages warm to room temperature.
Oh! If there are any small pieces of Queen candy left over....just give them to your kids! They'll love ya for it !! ha! Have fun and enjoy your new found skill.
See ya, Ken
ps. credit goes to Carl & Euvonne Harrison who gave me tips on how to make this candy! Thanks!