Posts tagged ‘Candy Making’

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

    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

    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

    Glue-cose

    If you hope to create a smooth, creamy, or chewy candy, there is a particular kind of sugar you must add to your mix: glucose. In candy making, glucose creates long carbohydrate molecules that get all tangled up and prevents the other sugars from crystallizing. This is the molecular action that makes hard candies glassy rather than crystalline, and keeps grittiness out of butterscotch, caramels, and taffies.

    In the early 1900s Americans were becoming more aware of the techniques of food manufacture in the new food industries. One worry was “adulteration”: were the factories adding cheap or harmful substances to the food they sold?

    Commercial candy makers were under special scrutiny. They made chemically complicated concoctions, with strange and unfamiliar colors and flavors and qualities, and they sold them to children. Were the dyes and flavorings and ingredients really safe?

    Some weren’t, to be sure. But one that got everybody riled up was “glue.” Glue obviously didn’t belong in candy; yet there it was, right on the list of ingredients: “gluecose.”

    Dr. Cutler, a representative of the American Manufacturing Association of Products from Corn, explained the problem in a 1914 address to the National Confectioners Association:

    The word ’Glucose’ is derived from that of ’Glukos, ’which was the name given to starch which had been converted into syrup, for the reason that it was sweet. The English spelling of the word was ’Glucose,’ which very easily became misspelled ’Gluecose,’ hence the conclusion by uninformed people that it was a product of ’glue,’ and as glue is made from a variety of objects such as animal hoofs, old bones, fish, etc., ’Glucose’ naturally enough became blacklisted by many. … It was found that even physicians and school teachers were actually teaching and preaching about the dangers and impurities of ’Glucose’.

    Confusion about the relation between “glue” and “glucose” became so acute that the corn industry, the primary supplier of glucose, had to act. They went to congress to pass a law allowing glucose to be known henceforth by a name that would forever clear up the “glue” confusion, and would instead imply all that was wholesome and pure. So you won’t find glucose on the list of ingredients any longer. Look for this water-binding simple sugar under its common name: “corn syrup.”

    For the story of corn syrup’s rise as a sugar substitute, see my post Corn Into Candy: 1918

    Source: “Corn Syrup Education,” International Confectioner June 1914; Harold McGee, On Food and  Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (1984).

    More on the science of Corn Syrup in candy making at Laura’s Candy Science Tuesday on Candy Dish Blog

    September 28, 2009 at 6:42 am 8 comments


    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.

    (C) Samira Kawash

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