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How is Blackpool Rock made and how do you get the letters through the middle? The process has not changed over the last century and it is still made entirely by hand.
Our rock is produced by Robert Blackwood who has over 30 years experience in the manufacture of lettered rock and is one of the best in our industry.
The sugar, glucose and water are all poured into a large copper pan and heated by gas to a temperature of 280 degrees Fahrenheit. This is known as the ‘crack’ temperature. This temperature needs to be watched carefully, if it goes too high it will set too quickly and can caramalise, too low the rock will be soft and will not set – the sticks will not hold their shape.
Once the correct temperature has been reached, two men tip the contents out of the pan onto a water cooled table to reduce the temperature. At this stage the liquid is clear, and it quickly cools sufficiently to be handled. Liquid vegetable dye is mixed into some of the clear liquid for the coloured part of the rock, the rest is transferred to a pulling machine. The pulling machine has three metal arms which constantly rotate crossing over each other which aerates the mixture turning it white, the texture also becomes softer. The flavouring is added during this stage of the process.
The coloured mixture is then transferred to a heated table, it must be kept warm for the next process, which is forming the letters. We produce one giant bar of Rock, like a huge sausage, which will be pulled and rolled until it is very long and thin and is cut into the lengths you buy in the shop. The letters have to be made long and large enough to stretch the length of this enormous bar – about 4ft long and 12 inches in diameter. The letters are made taking long flat red strips of mixture and packing the spaces in the letters with the white mixture, a bit like 3D lettering.
For example, to produce the letter ‘C’, a piece of white mixture is rolled by hand into a solid roll. A piece of the red clear mixture is rolled to form a flat strip and wrapped half way around the white roll. If you look at this end on you can see the letter ‘C’ has been shaped with the white packed in the middle.
As each letter is made it is carefully laid on the table and kept separate with long blocks of plastic. When all the letters have been made they are placed in the correct order and the plastic blocks are replaced with long strips of white mixture.
The letters are then wrapped around a large ‘sausage’ of white mixture and a white mixture is then wrapped around the letters before finally the ‘sausage’ being wrapped in the coloured casing.
It takes two men to lift and transfer the rock to the roller – it weighs over one hundredweight. The large ‘sausage’ of rock is put into a rolling machine which consists of four long conical, heated rollers that rotate continually. They turn one way, stop, then turn the other way, so that the letters do not twist around in the rock.. The heat is to keep the lump of rock hot during the spinning out process. The sugar boiler then then pushes and pulles stretching a length of rock out of the machine until it can be rolled by the rock roller.