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Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer Fun Idea: Sugar Rock Crystals

This activity took a few days, but we had a great time watching the crystals form and grow!

Over high heat we dissolved 4 cups sugar -- one cup at a time -- into 2 cups of water in a saucepan.  This was interesting in and of itself for my kids to see how sugar dissolves, and to note that it took much longer for the 4th cup of sugar to dissolve than the 1st.

After it was all dissolved, we took the pan off the heat and added a teaspoon of flavor and enough food coloring for the hue we wanted.  We chose almond extract because who doesn't LOVE that stuff?!  We let it cool off for 10 minutes or so, and then poured the syrup into a clean mason jar.  Because I have two children who strongly love blue, and two who strongly love pink, I made two batches:  pink and blue.  I'm such a pushover.

We dipped a wooden skewer into the syrup mixture, then rolled it in sugar, and submerged it again the the syrup jar.  I taped the skewers to the top of the jar, leaving about an inch of clearance at the bottom.  You can fit two skewers into a mason jar, but try to keep them from touching each other because when the crystals begin forming, they will grow together if they're too close.  (See example at the end)

 Lightly cover the jar and let sit in a cool, dark, undisturbed place for a couple of days.  The crystals should begin forming visibly after several hours, but I must admit our first batch didn't.  I think its home on the counter got a little too much disturbance and light.  The crystals did eventually develop, and they were very simple and large, but it was a couple of weeks before I thought they were ready.
Crystals in process of growing
 Yes, you read correctly.  I did  SECOND round because I'm such a cheapskate I hated to use that much sugar (8 cups total!!!) and then just pour it all down the drain.  The second time around I heated the syrup again (not sure if that's necessary, but I thought I'd play it safe) and chose a quieter home for the jars behind the dining room door.  This time the crystals developed much more quickly--in about 5 days.  But they were smaller crystals.   Go figure.
When all was said and done, my kids were thrilled with the process and results, and excited to sample.  And THEN, we brushed teeth immediately after.  I'm such a meanie.
The two pink skewers from the second round are an example of what happens if you let the skewers get too close together in the syrup as they're forming:  candy joined at the head.  Thanks to Selina at Creative Juices Decor, where I first saw the idea.

Hope someone else enjoys this as much as we did!