For many people, a summer excursion to the seashore isn’t complete without picking up a box or two of sweet, chewy salt water taffy to take home. Taffy shops have been popular attractions along the boardwalk in beach resort towns up and down the East Coast for more than a century. However, many people are under the misconception that salt water taffy is made with seawater, and this is not the case. In this post, we’ll take a look at the origins of this favorite treat, as well as how taffy is actually made.
Salt Water Taffy: The Beginnings
While it isn’t known for sure who invented taffy, the first large-scale taffy production and marketing operations began in Atlantic City in the late 19th century. The two original taffy entrepreneurs were believed to be Joseph Fralinger, who opened a retail taffy store along the Atlantic City boardwalk, and Enoch James, who developed his own taffy formula in the Midwest and eventually brought it to Atlantic City where he established his own taffy shop. Both stores remain popular Atlantic City attractions to this day.
As far as the name, legend has it that salt water taffy moniker came from an Atlantic City store owner named David Bradley. In 1883, a major storm caused the tide to rise and flood his store, thoroughly soaking his candy supply with Atlantic Ocean water. When a young girl came into the store asking for taffy, Bradley offered her some of what he jokingly called his new salt water taffy. The girl loved the treat so much that she shared some with her friends. It wasn’t long before just about everyone was referring to taffy as salt water taffy.
How Is Taffy Made?
While there are various taffy-making formulas, at its root, taffy consists of sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, salt, water (but not salt water!), butter, glycerine, food coloring, and natural or artificial flavors. These ingredients – minus the flavoring, which is added later – need to be boiled together before the pulling process begins. Once the mixture has cooled, flavoring is added.
Today, taffy is available in a wide range of flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, blue raspberry, licorice, watermelon, and many others. If you have a favorite flavor, chances are you can enjoy it in a piece of soft, chewy salt water taffy. And when it comes to salt water taffy, the flavor options are plentiful.
The first step in making taffy is cooking the ingredients in a large copper kettle. The product is then pulled by large machines that stretch the taffy out to aerate it. Aeration captures a large number of tiny bubbles that make the taffy soft and chewy. The taffy is then cut and formed into various shapes and sizes and packaged for shipping.
Before taffy pulling machines came along, this process was done by hand. And as you might suspect, it wasn’t easy.
Candy makers would pull taffy using a hook anchored into the wall. They’d place a large lump of taffy – sometimes weighing up to 25 pounds – on the hook, then pull it back five or six feet before folding the taffy back on itself and mounting it again on the hook. The candy maker would need to repeat this process numerous times before the taffy became soft and chewy.
What were “taffy pulls”?
During the 1800s, one of the most popular types of American social gatherings was the taffy pull (also known as the “candy pull.”)
And it involved people slathering their hands with butter and pulling molasses candy – AKA taffy – over and over. Why butter? To prevent the candy from sticking to people’s hands.
These events were typically held at colleges and churches or people’s homes and offered an easy way to socialize. All you needed was a kitchen, aprons and napkins, copper pans and the taffy ingredients.
The recipe required people to make a molasses candy by boiling molasses and letting it cool inside a well-greased pan. Once it had cooled down a bit, the candy would be pulled until it turned a yellowish shade, then shaped into sticks or braids, and finally cut with scissors to form drop-like shapes.
And don’t think that these events were strictly a small town, Middle American phenomenon. In the 1870s, wealthy people living along Fifth Avenue in New York City would attend taffy pulls, even when dressed to the nines.
Where Can You Buy Salt Water Taffy Today?
The beach isn’t the only place where you can purchase salt water taffy these days. You can find it in specialty shops, candy stores, markets and other locations that cater to those who prefer unique, tasty candy products. If you are in need of delicious Salt Water Taffy, Contact the team at the Best Popcorn Company today and we will be happy to assist you. We are well versed in not only popcorn, but Salt Water Taffy, Ice Cream, and Chocolate!