Posts filed under ‘Ingredients’

“Decayed Rocks Used in Candy”

As reported in the Philadelphia North American on November 30, 1908:

Grubbstown, Pennsylvania,  Nov 29. The astounding discovery has been made here that impure and decayed rocks are being used in the manufacture of rock candy.

How long this violation of the law has been going on is not accurately known, but certainly the fraud is widespread and thousands of persons have been cheated, if not positively harmed, by the men who have been carrying on their wicked work.

Special Agent Horatio Acornley, who has been investigating the matter for several weeks, says he can produce positive proof that several large candy manufacturers have been buying rotten rock at a low price and using it most exclusively in making rock candy.

“Thosands of innocent children have thus been exposed to the poison,” said Mr. Acornley, “and I would not be surprised to learn that it is responsible for many cases of hardening of the heart which have been reported to us.”

“As every one knows, only the best quality of rocks should be used…and we propose to bring suits against the guilty wretches.”

“In this connection I may say that I am looking into several cases of using poor limestone in making lime drops.”

Candy Professor adds:

It was these sorts of stories that made V.L. Price, the Chairman of the N.C.A. Executive Committee in the early 1900s, positively crazy. He was charged with responding to press accounts of poisoned or adulterated candy. So when the North American published this satirical piece, he put pen to paper to patiently respond, no, there is no rock in “rock candy,” only good pure sugar, and of course there are no limestones in lime drops either.

Which pedantry seems excessive, were it not for the fact that some time later Price found the Minneapolis Tribune publishing an investigative report  raising the alarm about the use of crushed rocks in rock candy and limestone in lime drops.  Price remarked wryly:

Of course, in gay Philadelphia they all saw the joke as it appeared in the paper’s columns as a fake, but in staid old Minneapolis they all took it seriously.

Or at least Marion Harland, the author of the Minneapolis piece, took it seriously. Just goes to show, you can’t believe everything you read in the papers!

Source: V.L. Price, report to the National Confectioners Association Convention June 1909, as reported in Confectioners Journal July 1909 p. 73.

March 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm 1 comment

All About Licorice

close-up of rolls of liquorices

First off, Twizzlers aren’t really licorice. In fact, many of the candy we think of as “licorice flavor” is in fact flavored with anise. But real licorice, from the root of the licorice plant, is quite amazing stuff. In a recent post, I described the multitudes of licorice candies that were popular in the early 1900s. And licorice itself played an important part in many American industries in the first half of the twentieth century.

A little science: glycyrrhizin is the name of the sweet substance in licorice root. This chemical, found in significant levels only in the root of the licorice plant, is fifty times as sweet as sugar. That’s a lot of sweet!

But the virtues of licorice are not just in the sweetness. Licorice root is a favorite with herbalists today, and boasts a medicinal history going back thousands of years. Licorice root has been used for eons as a health tonic, as a blood purifier, as a means of relief from sore throat and internal inflammations. And it isn’t just good for your insides. Mixed with honey, licorice has been used as a healer of sores and wounds.

Don’t think it’s just the health-foody types who believe in the healing power of licorice. Modern medical researchers are documenting its effects on the body. Did you know licorice (the real stuff) can raise your blood pressure? Of course, you should consult your doctor if you have questions about the medical effects of licorice. But you can safely consult Candy Professor for information about the history of uses of licorice in confectionery and elsewhere.

By the 1930s, U.S. industry was importing some 35,000 tons of licorice root per year, for use in a wide variety of industries. Attempts to grow licorice domestically were unsuccessful, so most licorice root was imported from Spain and Italy where it was cultivated commercially.

The first step in processing the licorice was to shred the roots. Then a process of grinding and sifting and grinding would yield the first product: powdered licorice root, to be used in pharmaceutical prepartions. The coarse remainder would be bathed in a solution, which produced a liquid extract. This second extraction would be reduced to a syrup or paste to form the base needed for candy making, and also for flavoring tobacco.

But they weren’t finished yet. After candy, cigars, and drugs had taken what they needed, the brewers had a turn. Yes, in the olden days, beer makers would add licorice to their brew to give it a foamy head. And the foaming properties of licorice extract suggested yet another use: fire extinguishers. Licorice extinguishers, which formed an oxygen-free foam, became important in fighting oil fires in the days before chemical extinguishers.

At last, there was nothing left of the licorice root but stringy fibers. These were not wasted either. The fiber was dried and made into insulating wall and box board. So the box your licorice candy was packaged in might also be made of licorice!

References: Percy A. Housemna and H. T. Lacey, “The Licorice Root in Industry,” Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 1929, 21 (10), pp 915–917; “Licorice Industry Reaches Sixtieth Year in America,” New York Times 26 January 1930.

February 26, 2010 at 8:25 am 9 comments

The Inventor of Candy Medicine

Today we honor an unhailed hero of candydom: Dr. Bernard Fantus (1874-1940). He seems an unlikely candidate for the Candy Hall of Fame. He is remembered as the “father of the American Blood Bank,” the first to conceive of collecting and storing a wide variety of blood for surgical and emergency use. But Fantus was a man of many talents and passions, as we shall see.

In the early 1900s, Dr. Fantus was a Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Illinois, and also a practicing physician at Cook County Hospital. He was bothered by the difficulties that children had with taking their nasty tasting medicines. Why, Dr. Fantus wondered, should medicine taste like medicine? Let’s make it taste like candy. Good candy. So he set himself to the task.

Of course, being a medical man, he knew a lot about drugs, but not much about how to make candy. So he signed up for courses with a local candy maker and learned some candy tricks. Then back to his own laboratory, where he experimented with different drugs and formulations. Sulphur taffy was not a success. His next idea was soft, chocolate covered candies with fondant centers to incorporate the medicine. Alas, his cod-liver oil chocolate creams left a little to be desired. There were other problems with fondant based medicines: fondant was tricky to work with, and dried out if stored too long, making it impractical for druggists to keep on hand.

Finally he hit on the idea of pressed sugar tablets, something akin to today’s American “Smarties.” These were easy to fabricate with a simple hand press and created a base for incorporating some 50 different active drugs. Whether you were bothered by syphilis or malaria, cough or diarrhea, Fantus had a candy tablet to suit. Fantus claimed that his formulations would result in candy tablets that tasted so good that the only problem would be to keep children from overdosing by eating too much at once.

In the early 1900s, most all prescription drugs were compounded locally by the pharmacist himself. So Fantus didn’t think of actually making any of these candy medications to sell. Instead, Fantus published a booklet titled Candy Medication in 1915 in the hopes that his idea would be taken up by doctors and pharmacists elsewhere. In his preface, he explained the benefits that would come from taking up candy in medical practice:

It is the author’s hope that this booklet may be instrumental in robbing childhood of one of its terrors, namely, nasty medicine; that it may lessen the difficulties experienced by nurse and mother in giving medicament to the sick child; and help to make the doctor more popular with the little ones.

Whether other children beyond Fantus’s own practice benefited from his idea is hard to say. But it would be quite some time before a commercial version of “candy medication” became available: children’s chewable aspirin was introduced in 1952.

References: Bernard Fantus, M.D., Candy Medication (1915); Biography of Dr. Bernard Fantus at My Hero Project

February 24, 2010 at 8:11 am 2 comments

Potato Caramels and Parsnip Nougat

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
  • February 15, 2010 at 9:33 am 6 comments

    Where the Streets are Paved with Sugar

    Empty road

    You may be aware that we have a serious infrastructure problem in this country. We’ve got collapsing bridges, rusting water mains, and exploding man holes. Worst of all if you just bought a new car, we’ve got potholes. Big ones. Here in New York City, you’ve got to watch your small pets and children, lest they tumble in never to be seen.

    As in all difficulties, we turn to candy when the chips are down. Here’s one idea. It’s not new, but I think it might work.

    It was 1909, in Newton, Massachusetts. That’s just outside Boston, so you know there’s a lot of brain power to draw on. The roads were in bad shape, and coal tar was getting expensive. The city elders put their heads together. What else could they use to pave the streets of Newton? Maybe they had some sticky taffy at that meeting, and maybe an alderman looked at the taffy, and looked at the coal tar, and a lighbulb went off. Why not use the stickyness of sugar instead of the stickyness of coal tar to hold the road together?

    So the took some of the waste syrup from the sugar refineries, and they mixed it up with pulverized stone, and they paved a road with it. And some deemed it a success, cheaper and better than coal tar!

    Of course, it’s pretty cold up there in Massachusetts for part of the year. Now when it warmed up, that’s when things might get interesting.

    Possibly we may eventually witness, when hot weather again comes around, the hopeless struggles of automobile parties firmly glued to this molasses highway, like unwary flies upon sheets of “catch ‘em alive” paper. This will be diverting to the outsiders.

    Not to mention the mothers, who will have to start saying, “Jonny, take that road out of your mouth right now! It’s going to spoil your dinner!”

    Source: “A Molasses Road,” Confectioners Journal, Jan. 1909, p. 71.

    January 29, 2010 at 8:42 am 2 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 Fortification: Synthetic Vitamin A

    Spoonful of dietary supplements

    In the 1950s, vitamins were all the rage. Prior to the work of the chemists, the usual way Americans took their vitamin A was in cod liver oil. But what if instead, people could get their vitamin A from something yummy, say, candy?

    Everybody needs vitamin A. So it was a potentially lucrative project for the chemical industry to develop a synthetic, stable form of Vitamin A. The prize was enormous: the military and the government were very interested in increasing the nutritive value of foods that could be stored and transported easily. In particular, the U.S. Army was interested in fortifying Army rations including candy, peanut butter, milk powder, and crackers with a palatable, stable form of vitamin A.

    In 1952, Pfizer developed a technique of gelatin stabilization that minimized the deterioration of the vitamin, and contributed no objectionable taste or odor. They tested chocolate bars fortified with the gelatinized vitamin A and found 92 percent retention after four weeks storage at 45 C (they don’t specify, but these must have been the modified military chocolate, as ordinary chocolate would have gotten pretty melty at this temperature, equivalent to 113 F).

    How much chocolate was consumed with vitamin A supplementation we don’t know. But we do know that synthetic vitamin A in amounts in excess of the RDA is pretty toxic. It’s usually called “retinol,” and today it is more familiar as a skin treatment than as a food additive. On the other hand, a candy bar that could prevent vitamin A deficiency and treat your acne flare ups might be pretty useful.

    Source: “Vitamin A Fortification Research,” Candy Industry 12 February 1952.

    Related post:

  • A Complete, Well-Balanced Diet
  • December 7, 2009 at 7:54 am 1 comment

    Igniting Cough Drops

    Violent candies: It’s not about the taste, but about the action. Pop Rocks explode in your mouth. Extreme Sours of all sorts burn the skin off your cheeks. Wintergreen Lifesavers emit sparks when chomped in the dark. Dear candy, don’t just sit there; DO SOMETHING!

    How delightful it must have been for whoever discovered the igniting cough drop, back in 1913. One typically seeks such medicated confection for its soothing, cooling properties. One does not expect pyrotechnics.

    Woman Taking Throat Lozenge

    A popular cough lozenge ingredient in the day was chlorate of potash; mixed up with a little sugar, it promised a tasty and effective treatment for respiratory discomfort. But when you rubbed the lozenge on the igniting strip of a safety-match box, watch out! The lozenge would light up like a match and burn.

    It’s a cough drop. No, it’s a match. No, it’s a cough drop AND a match!

    Confectioners Journal called it “killing two birds with one stone.” One wonders how it could have been as tasty as claimed. Of course, in 1913 those chalky Necco-style wafers were popular, too.

    Source: “Killing Two Birds With One Stone” Confectioners Journal, Jan. 1914 p. 93

    More: Chemistry expert Anne Marie Helmenstine explains Candy Triboluminescence (those sparks from Wintergreen Lifesavers).

    November 13, 2009 at 6:53 am 2 comments

    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

    Please Don’t Eat the Wrapper

    Partially eaten candy bar

    By the 1940s, advances in the candy industry were closely tied to the work of scientists and engineers working in industrial chemistry labs. Companies like Merck, Pfizer, and Monsanto were frequent advertisers in trade journals.Pfizer emphasized the uniformity and purity of its citric acid, cream of tartar, tartaric acid, and sodium citrate “to give good taste characteristics…to assure the product uniformity and product purity.” Merck placed ads for citric acid to “bring out the goodness of a well-made confection.” Merck also encouraged candy makers, newly interested in fortification, to choose Merck Food-Industry Vitamins with regularity, and also promoted its “pure vitamins for the food industry: Vitamin B1, Riboflavin, Niacin, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).”

    Monsanto Chemicals and Plastics offered the widest variety of products for the candy manufacturer. For candy flavor, there was Ethavan, a trade formulation of Ethyl Vanillin, (artificial vanilla flavor). Ethavan offered “distinctive flavor, and an aroma that is more pronounced, more intriguing, more pleasing… unusual staying power… more economical.” But Monsanto wasn’t just in the candy. Monsanto Plastics division offered “thermo-plastic coating” to wrap goods, and Vuepak, a “sparkling” material that could be fashioned into plastic boxes perfect for protecting and displaying candy.Vuepak was for products with “taste appeal, eye appeal, interesting design, texture of freshness. If it’s worth looking at…put it in Vuepak.”

    It was inevitable that the folks in the chemistry division should get together with the folks in the packaging department and come up with something entirely novel. In 1949, Monsanto announced “packages with aromas to match their contents” to be provided to manufacturers of candy, cookies and ice cream. Vanillin, ethavan, and coumarin, which had been developed as flavor and aroma enhancers, were incorporated into paper pulp or pressed into finished paper. It was “tasty” packaging, for a reasonable cost.

    Whether this became popular with consumers is not known. It seems risky, especially for candy bars one might eat in a darkened theater. There was, one hopes, some distinction between the taste of the candy and the taste of the cardboard package.

    Source: “Packages with Aromas to Match their Contents” Confectioners Journal Nov 1949 p. 41

    October 15, 2009 at 11:54 am 2 comments

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

    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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