Here in the South, it is part of many people’s holiday traditions to whip up a batch of Christmas Divinity for friends and family.
But here in the South, there is one “ingredient” that is in short supply to make the confection, particularly in the month of December. That “ingredient” is dry weather with relatively low humidity.
Humidity’s role in candy-making
If you are unfamiliar with divinity, it is an old fashioned, nougat-like candy confection that consists of egg whites, corn syrup, sugar, and other ingredients used for flavoring, like vanilla, dried fruits or nuts.
The ingredients are whipped together, incorporating air into the confection which produces a very soft, cloud-like texture which is dry to the touch — that is, if the weather is cooperating.
Many recipes call for making the candy on dry, sunny days with humidity levels below 50% in order for the candy to dry properly.
Sugar is hydroscopic, which means it attracts water molecules, including the water vapor molecules within the air. The higher the humidity, the more water vapor is available for the sugar molecules to attract. The result: A divinity that is less pillowy soft and more gooey and gritty in texture.
Candy manufacturer Warrell Corporation explains, “Cooking candy sugar to the proper temperature requires achieving the appropriate sugar-moisture balance. High humidity hastens the breakdown of sugar as it cools. Once the candy has cooled to the point where it can no longer evaporate moisture, it can actually begin to reabsorb moisture. This produces a softer product than may be desirable.”
Why dry weather is in short supply in December
In North Alabama and southern Middle Tennessee, December is (on average) the wettest month of the year. This is often due to numerous low pressure systems that either surge south from the Great Plains or move north from the Gulf of Mexico.
In an average December, as much as 5.50 to 5.75 inches of rain falls through the end of the year, with each rain system producing 1-1.5″ of rain at a time, sometimes twice in one week!
With that much rain within a month dedicated to celebrating the Christmas season, it can be easy to see why a dry, sunny day is on many candy-makers’ Christmas wish list!