Homemade marshmallows

Jill McKenna's Halloween marshmallows are made from scratch. These no-fuss treats make great Halloween party eats. (Nick Koon /Orange County Register/MCT)

Jill McKenna of Westminster, Calif., is a marshmallow-making maniac.

When her son Gillen (now 13) was a baby, she sampled a marshmallow while making s'mores (those chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow treats).

And after popping a marshmallow in her mouth, she decided that it was way too sweet, too flavorless and had an unappealing gummy-yet-resistant texture.

"I decided that I could do better, so I went on a marshmallow-making binge and over the course of several holidays came up with a few variations that our family and friends really like," McKenna writes, adding that Halloween and Christmas are huge events for her family.

"My marshmallow recipe is NOT my original work, but the variations are mine. I grab, collect, and just plain steal recipes from everywhere, so I have no idea where this one originated."

She says that although she is an avid cook, she comes from a long line of "anti-cooks."

"My mother cannot reliably boil water, and lost the recipe for ice cubes 30 years ago," she says. "So I took over most of the holiday baking and candy-making very early, around junior high school age."

She says that her mother, who used to hate marshmallows (and refused to eat them), now adores her homemade 'mallows. In fact, she mandates that McKenna make them for every holiday.

For Halloween she cuts them into a variety of holiday-themed shapes, everything from pumpkins to ghosts to bats. For Christmas, she cuts them into rectangles and dips one end into melted bittersweet chocolate.

Or, for special Christmas gifts, she packages a homemade marshmallow in a cellophane bag along with 1/4 cup shaved dark chocolate. She puts the bag in a holiday-themed mug and writes an instruction card.

The message says, "Add warm milk to shaved chocolate. When chocolate has melted, place marshmallow on top. Sip until boss shuts up, dog stops barking, or children clean their rooms. Do not share, as this treat was made especially with you in mind."

McKenna Marshmallows

Servings: One 9-by-12-inch pan

2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup chilled water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt