This month in candy here at Candy Professor Central it’s “candy corn-a-palooza.” Together with my Fearless Assistant (aka Jelly Bean Baby*), we have been noshing our way through the full spectrum of candy corn offerings.
I’ll be honest with you, it hasn’t always been pretty. Last week, we experienced a most unpleasant sort of surprise in the guise of M&M White Chocolate Candy Corn. Verdict: Don’t go there. In the spirit of gustatory recovery, then, this week we return to the classic: real, authentic candy corn.
Candy corn is a generic bit of mellocreme, invented back in the 1880s. Anybody can sell candy corn, and judging by the offerings in my local drugstores, anybody does. So we decided it was time for a little taste-off. Here are the contenders:
In the upper left corner, Jelly Belly’s premium gourmet candy corn, 99 cents/ounce.
Immediately below, Brach’s national brand candy corn, 25 cents/ounce.
And rounding out the field, on the right, Rite Aid store brand candy corn, 16 cents/ounce.
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the bottom line: you get what you pay for. The high-end Jelly Belly product truly is superior. The bits are even, regular, smooth and shiny. The flavor is mild and pleasant. The texture is just a bit grainy, with the lovely chew that distinguishes a fine candy corn. So hands down, it’s better than Brach’s. But it is fair to ask: is it FOUR TIMES better?
Brach’s candy corn is what I grew up with, and I must say I think it is quite fine. Unlike the Jelly Belly corn, Brach’s boasts “real honey” in the mix. The flavor is slightly more salty than Jelly Belly, and once someone says the word “honey” you’ll say, “Oh, yeah, it kinda does taste like honey,” although i suspect the actual amount of honey is infinitesimal. Real honey flavor doesn’t necessarily come from actual honey these days (cf. “natural flavors”).
Texture-wise, Brach’s is a bit more granular and gritty than Jelly Belly, with a more “full sweet” intensity. This is the quality that has made candy corn the Halloween treat so many hate on. But for me, it’s that mix of chewy and grainy and sweet that I love.
The Brach’s brand started as a family candy business back to the early 1900s. Then all the Brach family died or were killed in gruesome murders. In the 1980s, several changes in corporate ownership took their toll. Production moved to Mexico in 2001. Those were some dark days for Brach’s candy corn, when every bag seemed to be full of misshapen morsels pulled off the rejects line. Happily, Brach’s candy corn has turned the corner; the batch I sampled was quite an improvement. My impression is that the current owner of Brach’s, Ferrara Candy Co., is heavily investing in the whole candy corn line (more on that in a future review), and that has raised the quality.
Now, for our last contender, “generic” candy corn sold under the Rite Aid label. These are weird, let me just start with that. The shape is too angular, the orange is too reddish, they have a dull and listless look overall, and the taste…I can’t figure it out. More vanilla, less honey-salt. I will give these generic grains points on texture, though. The texture actually seems ok, maybe even smoother than the Brach’s. But something is seriously wrong with the production. Let’s have a close up:
How many pieces are actually in tact? Three? Four? Most of them have lost their white tip, and quite a few have split right down the center. This is such a mess that you can hardly call it candy corn. I would never put a bowl of this out on the table. Even at less than one-fifth the price of the gourmet Jelly Belly corn, this “generic” is no bargain.
Bottom line: if you’re eating for pure pleasure, splurge on the Jelly Belly’s. If you’re having a party, Brach’s is best. As for the generic, I have to give it my lowest ranking: fake candy corn.
If you’re interested in the back story, check out my candy corn history at TheAtlantic.com
*Jelly Bean Baby will be a familiar character to readers of CANDY: A CENTURY OF PANIC AND PLEASURE
Entry filed under: Candy Reviews. Tags: .