2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon flavored extract (we used key lime extract)
3-4 drops food coloring (optional)
wax paper candy wrappers, about 1 1/4 inch by 3 1/2 inches
Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with nonstick cooking spray or lining them with sili-pats or greasing them with a thin layer of canola oil. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
Dissolve the salt in the water. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and salt water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously until sugar dissolves. Then continue cooking without stirring until candy reaches 260 degrees(hard-ball stage). If you were to drop a bit of the mixture into a cup of cold water it should form a solid but flexible ball at this stage.
Remove from heat immediately and stir in extract. Pour half (or more than half if you only want a thin stripe of color) of the mixture into a prepared baking sheet and place it in the oven to stay warm. Skip this step if you want solid colored or white candy.
Add food coloring to the remaining candy. Pour the candy out onto a heat-safe cutting board or sili-pat. Allow it to sit until it forms a thin “skin”, just a couple of minutes.
Using a heat-safe scraper or spatula, begin spreading the candy out and pushing it back together. This will allow the mixture to cool to the point where you can pick it up without burning yourself.
Meanwhile, oil your hands with a bit of canola oil. As soon as the candy is cool enough to handle, pull it in long strands then fold the strand back onto itself and repeat, twisting and pulling, until it has a satiny finish and is opaque. Pull into a long rope about 1” thick. Place on the prepared baking sheet on the counter and remove the other batch of taffy from the oven. Make sure you really, really stretch out the candy. The more you stretch, the softer it will be. Candy that is not stretched enough will be hard and difficult to chew.
Repeat the above procedure with this batch. Twist the two strands together until they do not separate.
Pull the twisted candy into long strips, 1/2-inch in diameter, and cut with oiled kitchen shears into pieces about 3 inches long. Alternately, twist into 1 inch wide strips then cut into 1/4 -1/2 inch chunks for coin-shaped taffy. Allow to cool completely before wrapping individually in waxed paper by placing the taffy logs in the middle of the waxed paper then folding it over lengthwise and twisting the ends shut.
Store in an air tight container.
Note: I like to use HFCS-free corn syrup. It is a little more difficult to find (the ubiquitous Karo contains HFCS) but is available at some grocery stores, health food stores and I've actually had great success finding it at Asian grocery stores like H Mart. If you are using conventional corn syrup make sure it does not have vanilla added, I've found nearly all of the Karo other other common brands of light corn syrup have vanilla added.
My thoughts:Salt water taffy is the quintessential East Coast beach candy. All of the Mid-Atlantic beaches sell a variety of saltwater taffy in stores lining the boardwalk. Its origins are up for debate; use of actual saltwater and flooding come into play but it is generally recognized that Joseph Fralinger in Atlantic City New Jersey is the one who helped make it become as popular as it is today.
At candy shops up and down the East Coast you can find salt water taffy pulling machines hard at work stretching the taffy to a soft consistency but it is possible to make it at home. It involves more pulling than you would think but it is quite easy as long as you get the molten sugar to hard ball stage. I personally don't use a candy thermometer (I just drop it into a cup of cold water to see if it forms a flexible ball) and never have any trouble. If you find that the candy never "sets up" and you can't pull it then start over, it probably wasn't at hard ball stage when you took it off the heat. Luckily, the ingredients are inexpensive and it is quick to get it going again.
I recommend stretching the candy longer than you would think, try a little bit and make sure it is at taffy consistency before wrapping. If not, pull it some more. Three of us were pulling the taffy and some sections were pulled more and thus ended up softer than others. It is better to "over" pull then to not pull enough and end up with hard, sticky candy.
Anyway, it is a fun, surprisingly easy (and non-messy!) treat to make.