In our last blog post, we discussed the history of saltwater taffy and how it got its name, and its origins as a favorite treat among boardwalk visitors.
We’d wager that part of the charm of buying taffy when you’re at the shore is seeing it made. Machinery at work, pulling large ropes of taffy is quite a sight to see.
At first sight, you may wonder “What’s going on there?”
Throughout our history, as we grew to be an iconic candy maker in the Philadelphia area, stories of taffy making at the shore have traveled far and wide. Having candy locations at the shore and just north of Philadelphia, we still hear them.
In this blog post, we’ll look at the hows and whys of taffy making.
How is taffy made?
The pulling process is essential to producing saltwater taffy. Pulling taffy creates aeration by capturing countless little air bubbles inside the mixture. Without it, the finished product would have none of the softness or chewiness we associate with taffy.
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’s in taffy?
What we described above covers the mechanics of taffy making. But what’s actually in a batch of saltwater taffy?
At its root, taffy is made from sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, salt, butter, water, glycerin and flavoring. 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.
And when it comes to saltwater taffy, the flavor options are plentiful. For example, the James saltwater taffy company offers chocolate, banana, orange, strawberry, lemon, lime, peppermint, molasses, vanilla, cherry, coconut and licorice, as well as cinnamon, wintergreen, molasses mint, peanut butter cup, cookie dough, candy apple, sour grape and sour cherry and peanut butter and jelly.
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 need 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.
Taffy pulls might no longer be in fashion. But thankfully, saltwater taffy still is. If you’re having a craving for this classic boardwalk delicacy, head to Stutz, where we sell delicious James Saltwater Taffy. Whether you shop online or visit us on Long Beach Island at 25th & Boulevard, Ship Bottom, NJ, we’re confident we have many flavors you’ll enjoy.