The candy business is alive and well in the U.S. especially during holidays. Christmas stockings won’t be complete without candy. But it wasn’t always the case. I thought it’d be fun to look at the candy that found its way to the settlements in the Old West.
- Horehound Candy
- Rock Candy (lemon drops)
- Jelly Beans
Strange that some of the early “candy” like licorice, peppermint, and horehound started out as a medicinal treatment. My dad loved the taste of horehound candy and bought it by the bagfuls. I tried it a couple of times and always ended up spitting it out. It tasted horrible. But it was good for a sore throat. I opted for peppermint when I came down with a cold. It tasted much better.
Candies that were made in homes by industrious cooks were:
- Peanut Brittle
- Candied fruit peels
- Sugarcoated nuts (referred to as comfits)
In the middle to late 1800’s taffy pulls became all the rage. People would come from all around to make taffy. They pulled the candy to make it pliable and easier to eat. Folks saw it as a much anticipated social occasion. It gave them a wonderful opportunity to get together and catch up on news and gossip…and satisfy a sweet tooth at the same time.
One of my fondest memories was when my mother made homemade taffy. We had to butter our hands so the confection wouldn’t stick to our fingers. Then two people would stand facing each other about a foot away and pull the taffy back and forth between them. I remember it had to be pulled before it set up. It was a little hot on the hands. We all loved it though, especially the eating part.
Bonbons were 1st introduced as a Christmas novelty in the late 1840’s in London. They were sold in the U.S. mostly in confectionery shops. They were wrapped in tissue paper. The everyday person couldn’t afford them.
Chocolate was also very expensive and considered quite a luxury and I imagine it was very scarce as a candy in the old West. The 1st packaged box of Whitman’s Chocolates was sold in 1854 in Philadelphia.
Pralines is an old candy that was first made in France in the 17th century. It was transported to Louisiana in the U.S. by French settlers. I don’t think it was well known beyond the deep south.
Well, that’s early candy in a nutshell. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Do you make homemade candy at Christmastime? It makes an excellent gift. The thing I make most is fudge. It’s quick and easy (especially when cooked in the microwave) and it tastes great. YUM!