Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a medium, heavy pot. Place water, sugar and cream of tartar in pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. As the syrup comes to a boil, any impurities in the sugar will rise to the surface; remove these using a small stainless steel sieve or strainer.
Using a clean brush dipped in clean water, wash the sides of the pan down to ensure that no crystals form around the edge of the pan. Add the black food coloring. Continue boiling, washing the pan sides down regularly until the syrup reaches 340 degrees F, and then place the pan into a bowl of cold water to stop further cooking.
Allow mixture to reach a honey-like consistency and pour into the center of a mold, allowing the sugar to run slowly to the sides. Let cool, tap sides of mold, and remove.
After cooking sugar to 340 degrees F and then cooling briefly in the bowl of cold water, pour out onto an oiled marble or silpat mat. Allow to cool around the edges and carefully fold into the center, repeating until a soft pliable mass is formed. Incorporate air to create shine by pulling and folding the sugar until cool.
Recipe courtesy of Susan Notter, Birmingham, AL