Posts filed under ‘Candy Making’

Tough Tootsie, and How It Got To Be That Way

Durable. Rugged. Stands the test of time. That’s what you expect from radial tires. Not so much from candy.

But that’s the Tootsie Roll. Built to last. Tootsie Roll Industries describes the candy’s peculiar durability as “its non-perishable quality and resistance to extreme weather conditions.” I’ll say. It’s pretty amazing that a candy renowned for surviving under war conditions should end up near the top of America’s favorite treats.

How, you might wonder, did the Tootsie Roll get to be that way? Because if it weren’t for that non-perishable resistance, Tootsie Roll would have been just like any other chewy American candy of the early 1900s.

The secret is in the patent. U.S. Patent number 903,088, awarded to Leo Hirschfeld on November 3, 1908 with the unassuming name “A process for making candy.”

Normally a candy like taffy would be made by boiling the sugar mixture to a certain temperature, then pulling it on forks as it cooled, which would incorporate tiny air bubbles,  making it lighter in color and creating that chewy texture. Once it had cooled, you could cut it into pieces and wrap it.

What Leo figured out was that if you baked the candy at a low heat for a couple of hours after you pulled it but before you shaped it, the texture would be transformed from regular sticky taffy to the particular and peculiar texture of Tootsie Roll. The second cooking would cause the candy to rise like a cake, and become more light and porous. And it would make the candy a little tough, Leo admitted: “while tough in a measure it is not unpleasantly so, and will after a reasonable length of time thoroughly dissolve in the mouth.” That sounds about right.

Beecause Hirschfeld patented this process, no one else could do it. The patent was a very big deal in 1909. Tootsie manufacturer Stern & Saalberg Co. made sure everybody knew they had sole legal right to the Tootsie Roll process, and that they would prosecute anyone who tried to steal it. If you didn’t know, you could read it plainly at the bottom of their first known ad (shown here), which appeared in Confectioners Journal in May 1909:

The process for making Chocolate Tootsie Rolls is Patented. We have $50,000 laid aside to protect our rights.

The name “Tootsie” was also a registered trade-mark, protected by U.S. Patent and Trademark law. And in case you forgot, the patent was right there on the label of every single Tootsie Roll. The print is a little fuzzy, but it says “Tootsie Reg. U.S. Pat. Office” all over the label.

Detail of wrapper from early Tootsie Roll ads (1909-1912)

There is no candy like a Tootsie Roll, then or now. Pretty smart, that Leo Hirschfeld.

Related Posts:

  • Tootsie Roll Tragedy: The Real Leo Hirschfeld Story
  • Chocolate? Tootsie Rolls
  • February 5, 2010 at 8:32 am 9 comments

    Some Candies You Won’t Be Making for the Holidays

    close-up of a bowl of assorted candy

    This time of year, some people fire up the stove to make home made candies. Maybe some walnut fudge? or how about candied orange peels?

    We’re accustomed to the typical fruits and nuts that flavor our candy. But over the past century, some intrepid inventors have pushed the boundaries of “candy flavor” to experiment with new and strange candies:

    Horseradish Bonbons: A recipe published in 1915 suggested boiling horseradish in sugar syrup, and using this as a base for a chewy candy treat. You can enjoy it as a snack, or as a side dish with your Roast Beef.

    Candy from Cottonseed: The Saint Louis Cotton Oil Company found itself with a lot extra cottonseed on its hands in 1915. Why not cottonseed candy? They produced caramels and a chewy taffy-like candy. The project never took off, as the market value of the oil was too high to make the candy a practical proposition. But tasters found it agreeable, and said if they didn’t know what it was, they would have taken it for a good brand of molasses candy.

    Alfalfa Candy: In 1915, a man in Montana claimed he could make 75 varieties of candy from alfalfa. This would be, I suppose, the sort of candy you would offer your horse or your hamster.

    Lima Bean Taffy: How to get the kiddies to eat more vegetables? Hide them in the candy! A century before Jessica Seinfeld and the Sneaky Chef, Mary Elizabeth Hall came up with a whole cookbook of “alternative” vegetable candies. Vegetable candy seemed a great solution for intemperate candy lovers: it “furnishes the valuable element of sugar so combined with nutritious vegetable bases that, because of the bulk, there is no temptation to overeat!” Or, perhaps, because of the taste… (Candy-Making Revolutionized, 1912)

    Alayam: This was an experimental candy made from sweet potatoes. The mid-century story of Alayam is an interesting case of what happens when agricultural policy meets the candy dish. Another “not quite ready for prime time” experiment, you can read more about it in the post about Alayam.

    December 9, 2009 at 8:10 am 2 comments

    Candy Making in Brooklyn, 1908

    I happen to live in Brooklyn, so it is with pride that I relate Brooklyn’s glorious candy days past. In 1908, Brooklyn ranked among the top confectionery manufacturing cities. Brooklyn alone accounted for 130,000,000 pounds of confectionery and chocolate a year, at a value of some $10,000,000. The population of the borough in that year was 1,640,400; so that’s almost 80 pounds for each man, woman, and child. The biggest candy factory in the world was on Lorimer Street, churning out 36,000,000 pounds of confection a year for the candy starved masses. All that candy didn’t stay in Brooklyn, though. Brooklyn candy makers exported more candy than those of any other city, and Brooklyn-made candies could be found in every state of the union.

    Brooklyn was a great place to be a candy eater, too. In 1908, there were some 560 shops dedicated to the sale of candy, and many of those shops were also making their own candies on site. Plus, you could buy candy at drug stores, news stands, stationers, department stores… well, the fact is, it would have been hard to not buy various, interesting, fresh, locally made candy in 1908, if you found yourself on the streets of Brooklyn.

    One candy seller described his typical male customer’s candy-eating habits:

    [Men] are at it all the time–and eat much more at a time than they used to.It is the men who keep the candy business going. Where they used to buy a box once in a while and carry it home, now they come into a store like this and buy 5 or 10 or 15 cents worth just for themselves and eat it right up.

    5 cents in 1908 would buy you a good-sized bar, or a pouch of smaller candies, about what a dollar buys today. 15 cents worth of candy would have been a hefty amount to “eat right up”!

    No wonder America was known in that day as a nation of candy eaters. Brooklyn’s 560 candy shops served 1.6 million people. Today, we have 250 listings in the Yellow Pages under “candy,” and the borough population is closer to 2.5 million. Most candy comes from drug store and grocery racks, the same familiar Hershey and Mars and the like. Yeah, we still eat candy, but not like in those good old days…

    Source: “Brooklyn leads Country in Candy Export.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle 7 March 1908 Industries, Real Estate, Long Island Section, p 1-3.

    November 16, 2009 at 6:22 pm 2 comments

    Candy Cook Books: Where have they Gone?

    Recipe book, eggs, measuring cup, bowl, whisk and muffin tin

    I was in the bookstore the other day looking for cookbooks on candy making. I found approximately…zero. I’m not saying there aren’t any at all out there, I’m just saying it doesn’t seem to be a popular topic.

    And why would it be? There is amazing candy to be had, whatever your taste or budget. It’s not the kind of thing you do at home. You need special equipment, and a fearless approach to hot sticky liquids. Most of us are still struggling with the Betty Crocker Mix. But once upon a time, home candy making was a very big deal.

    In the olden days (before 1865 or so), a confectioner would set up shop in town and sell what she made. The invention of candy making machines in the second half of the nineteenth century meant that by 1890, most North Americans had access to a fantastic array of commercially produced candies. That meant when you headed out to buy some candy, you wouldn’t be likely to know who made it, or even where it might have been made.

    This anonymous commercial production of candy made some people quite nervous. What was in that candy? New technologies and processes were creating candies no one had ever seen before. Was it safe? Some candy makers were cutting corners, adding cheaper fillers or substituting fakes for more expensive ingredients like chocolate or nuts. Some of the new ingredients were chemicals, unknown and untested.

    There was an explosion of home candy cookbooks from the 1880s to the 1910s. These cookbooks often made explicit appeals to women to protect their children. Good mothers were told never to let their children touch “cheap” candies. They might be “adulterated” with fillers, poisons, who knows what. Instead of buying cheap candy for their children, good mothers should make their children’s candy at home.

    The per capita sale of candy increased dramatically from 1900 to 1915. By then, home candy making was falling out of favor. Worries about adulteration seemed less important. Pure Food laws had helped regulate additives and ingredients, and advertising and brand names increased consumer confidence in the goods they bought at the store.

    It could never have been the case that home candy significantly displaced manufactured candy. Only a small number of families would have the leisure time necessary for candy making. It is likely as well that after some 25 years of experimentation, home candy cooks realized that candy making was difficult and exacting work, and the variety and quality of candy readily available at attractive prices made home candy less appealing.

    The days of home candy making seem long past. I have friends who enjoy baking, friends who garden, friends who sew handbags. I don’t know anyone who makes candy at home. But these days, we think a lot about how to simplify, how to get back to basics, how to “do it yourself.” Perhaps lollipops and taffy from our own kitchens will be next!

    Source: on home candy cookbooks, see Wendy A. Woloson, Refined Tastes: Sugar, Confectionery, and Consumers in Nineteenth Century America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002)

    Related Posts:

  • Home Made vs. Store Bought Candy
  • November 4, 2009 at 8:30 am 1 comment

    Beer and Candy III

    annheuser-busch 1952

    You don’t think about Budweiser crossing paths with the Lollypop Tree, but once again, it turns out candy and liquor have a tangled past.

    It all goes back to Prohibition, of course.

    Anheuser-Busch started out as the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri in 1852. After a number of changes in owners and names, Anheuser-Busch began producing Budweiser in 1876. Michelob followed in 1896. By 1900, Anheuser-Busch was selling one million barrels of beer a year.

    And then, the catastrophe known in the American brewery and distillery business as “Prohibition.” In 1920, it became illegal to manufacture and sell alcohol. What is a thiving manufacturer to do? In a word, diversify.

    To keep afloat, Anheuser-Busch branched out. They started selling ice cream, barley malt syrup, ginger ale, root beer, chocolate- and grape-flavored beverages, truck and bus bodies, refrigerated cabinets, baker’s yeast and dealcoholized Budweiser.

    And they started selling corn syrup, a key ingredient for the growing candy industry.

    This advertisement is from the June 17, 1952 issue of Candy Industry. The ad shows that in the 1950s, long past the days of Prohibition, Anheuser-Busch was actively seeking customers for their corn products in the candy business. I’d love to be at one of those meetings, imagine the snack table laden with foamy mugs and candy canes…

    An update on Anheuser-Busch: today the company’s principle concerns are beer, packaging, and theme park entertainment. They also have interests in malt production, rice milling, real estate development, turf farming, metalized and paper label printing, bottle production and transportation services. I’ll bet they miss the candy.

    Sources: Candy Industry, June 17, 1952; http://www.anheuser-busch.com

    Related Posts:

  • Beer and Candy I
  • Beer and Candy II
  • October 19, 2009 at 6:21 am 6 comments

    Home Made vs. Store Bought Candy

    It would seem to follow that more expensive candies are better candies. Better ingredients, more care, higher quality, all adds up to higher price.

    For candy buyers in the nineteen-teens, worried about food purity and adulteration, expensive candy seemed not only better, but safer. Women’s magazines encouraged housewives to buy only the most expensive sorts of candies for their families. If they couldn’t afford the best, the only safe alternative was to make it at home.

    Professional candy makers laughed at the idea. One remarked,

    Those who are such fools as to suppose they can turn out kitchen stove candy as good as the cheapest sold by any respectable confectioner are soon undeceived. Candy making calls for skill and experience. It is cheap because it is made in large quantities and by the use of machinery.

    Commercial candy had to overcome consumers’ anxieties about new products and new technologies for manufacture. Commercial candy also competed with a nostalgic idea about home made candies. Although candy making was indeed a laborious affair, the work could be made fun, and the product was certainly a pleasure. Taffy pulls, fudge parties, and the like had been popular middle-class entertainments at the turn of the century.

    The candy trade hoped Americans would come to see store-bought candy as an everyday food rather than a luxury for holidays and special events. One enterprising candy poet proposed this little scene to illuminate the new world of candy consumption, circa 1916:

    “’Lasses Candy”

    How ways have changed since dearest Grandma’s time,
    ’In lots and lots of things,’ she says, ’it’s so.’
    When she was young and in her girlhood prime
    Store candy was a luxury, you know.

    ’But,’ she says ’when farmhouse work was done
    And company’d come–just country girls and boys–

    They’d have a candy pull.’ I’ll bet ’twas fun,
    In those old times of simple, homely joys.

    What fun ’twould be, if mother’d only leave
    Me have a ’candy pull,’ like grandma did.
    With boys and girls to come and make believe
    That each was just a jolly country kid!

    But mother’d say: ‘Who put such notions in your mind?
    Don’t let me hear such nonsense anymore.
    I guess, when grandma comes to town, she’ll find
    Much better ’lasses candy at the store.’

    Sources: “Those Silly Sunday Pages,” Confectioners Journal, Feb. 1915, p. 62; “’Lasses Candy,” Confectioners Journal, April 1916, p. 78.

    Related Posts:

  • Candy Cook Books: Where have they Gone?
  • Ye Olde Candy Shoppe
  • October 14, 2009 at 7:14 am 4 comments

    Alayam: Candy from Sweet Potatoes

    For U.S. manufacturers as well as ordinary citizens, World War II meant shortages and rationing of many staple goods, including sugar. Citizens were encouraged to substitute honey and syrup in their home cooking. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to encourage the development of substitutes for sugar that would satisfy the nation’s demand for candy.

    Close-up of a sweet potato

    In Alabama, the Agricultural Research Station at Auburn began experimenting with a local crop, the sweet potato, sometimes also called the yam. After some mixing and melting and molding and such, they came up with something promising. In naming the new candy they melted together the state of its invention and the name of the now exalted tuber. They called it: Alayam.

    Alayam was described as “a cocoanut brittle made with sweet potatoes.” The candy had potential. Some people liked it. In consumer acceptance tests, researchers determined that “40 percent of the nation’s consumers like this new product as well as or better than the candies they are currently buying or eating” and that “more than a third… would buy the product if it were available on the market.” A little luke-warm as endorsements go, but the point is, they didn’t spit it out.

    Of course, neither the Alabama Station nor the U.S.D.A. was equipped to bring such a candy to the consumer market. Sugar rationing having been lifted in 1947, candy manufacturers were not so eager to experiment with marketing strange candy substances. And so Alayam never came to be.

    It was perhaps an idea before its time. In today’s climate of concern about what goes into the food that goes into our bodies, maybe a sweet potato candy is just what we need.

    Source: “Candy from Sweet Potatoes May Become Popular,” Confectioners Journal May 1950, p. 43.

    October 7, 2009 at 7:36 am 5 comments

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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