Potato Caramels and Parsnip Nougat

February 15, 2010 at 9:33 am 6 comments

I’m starting to realize that you can make candy out of anything. Rocks, even. Oh, wait, that “rock candy” isn’t really made of rocks… (or is it? see this post for more on the question of rocks in rock candy).

But anything edible, you can bet somebody somewhere tried to make a candy out of it. In fact, in some countries what I might consider “peculiar” for a candy ingredient is quite ordinary. Take Mexican Dulces de Calabasas, for example. Squash candy. I wouldn’t have come up with that. Or an Asian favorite, Durian taffy. That’s made of the fruit that smells, to the un-initiated nose, like a diaper pail. You see how provincial I am when it comes to candy flavors.

But luckily, many others have ventured boldly. Our global village is bringing us all sorts of interesting flavors. And a look to the past shows that even here in America, more intrepid candy inventors have imaginations wider than the produce aisle.

I’m thinking of Mrs. Ellen Gillon, of Honesdale, Pennsylvania. This was a while back, of course, 1911 to be precise. Mrs. Gillon’s husband had died, and she was left to fend for herself. She explained:

One day, when I was thinking of schemes to make money, the idea of vegetable candy occurred to me. I experimented for several weeks before I hit upon the process, and as far as I know, I am the only one in the world who knows it

Mrs. Gillon wouldn’t say how she made the candy, only what it was made of: the finest vegetables she could gather from the garden. At Mrs. Gillon’s shop, you could sample potato caramels, parsnip nougat, turnip fudge, beet marshmallows, and bean taffy.

Mrs. Gillon herself claimed to live “almost entirely on vegetables” and to eat little candy. Once her vegetable confections were perfected, though, she could one supposes, live almost entirely on candy vegetables! Not to mention all the children of the neighborhood, for whom “eat your vegetables” would sound entirely delectable.

Source: Confectioners Journal June 1911, p. 83, quoting from the Philadelphia North American May 6, 1911.

Related posts:

  • Some Candies You Won’t Be Making for the Holidays
  • Alayam: Candy from Sweet Potatoes
  • Entry filed under: Candies We Miss, Candy Making, Ingredients. Tags: , .

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    6 Comments Add your own

    • 1. Richard @ The Bewildered Brit  |  February 16, 2010 at 5:53 pm

      You know, somewhere around, I have a cookbook from either the late 19th or early 20th century which tells you how to make candy out of vegetables. I can’t for the life of me remember where it is, now. I should dig it out!

      Reply
      • 2. CandyProfessor  |  February 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

        The one I know is Mary Elizabeth Hall, Candy Making Revolutionized (1912). Are there others? If you make some turnip caramels or spinach divinity, I’d love to hear about it!

        Reply
    • 3. Vegetable Candy Revolution « Candy Professor  |  June 2, 2010 at 9:57 am

      [...] Potato Caramels and Parsnip Nougats [...]

      Reply
    • 4. tiranda  |  October 27, 2010 at 7:24 pm

      Anyone who’s interested in the nexus between candy and vegetables should check manybooks.net — they have a book (available in PDF and other formats)that says it’s copyrighted 1912, called “Candy Making Revolutionized” by Mary Elizabeth Hall, featuring candy made with potato paste, and all kinds of vegetables (beet, for example, gives a lovely colour). It’s for the home candy maker. (She gives directions for potato paste, uncooked potato fondant (with egg white) and cooked potato fondant. I’m still trying to find out what “angelique” is — she uses it for flower stems and leaves.

      Miss/Ms Hall points out how any girl or woman might have potatoes in her garden, while marzipan is expensive and only available in stores in the great cities. She also mentions how sculptures made from potato fondant in the home will be more wholesome than those in the stores in “the great cities,” which lovely treats might contain plaster of paris. Yuck. Or other ingredients she alludes to but does not specify. (Of course all this is long before the Pure Food Act of 1938).

      This is a really interesting blog. There’s more to candy than I thought! Bookmarked for sure.

      Reply
      • 5. Candy Professor  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:43 pm

        Thanks for bringing up that fantastic book! I have a post on Hall and vegetable candy: Vegetable Candy Revolution But I don’t know what angelique is either. Maybe we’ll hear from a reader…

        Reply
        • 6. jennifer  |  November 30, 2011 at 10:17 am

          Angelique is angelica. It is a pretty green / yellow flower that grows in Nordic countries and in France and Germany. It is used to flavour things like Dubonnet and Benedictine. I have had angelica jam, with bits of the stem floating in it. You can buy candied angelica stems in bulk stores or cake decorating stores, here in Canada and in England and I presume in other parts of Europe. People use the candied stems to decorate cakes and cupcakes – a little candied violet with an angelica stem is always nice.

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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    Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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