Hard Candy & Lollipops
Thursday, August 03, 2006
There once was a company that made boiled sweets (hard candies) in Chicago. Founded in 1893, The Reed Candy Company used copper kettles to boil sugar and corn syrup and other things together to create flavorful treats. In 1931 they started making their most famous product, the Reeds’ Butterscotch candy roll. Later they added more flavors including Cinnamon, Root Beer and Butter Toffee.
At some point in their history The Reed Candy Company was bought out by another Chicago area based sweets company, Amurol Confections (known for their novelty gums like Big League Chew and Bubble Tape) ... and they in turn were bought by Wrigley’s (also based in Chicago). The larger distribution chain should have helped, but I still rarely saw them at drug stores or groceries. I usually saw them at newsstands. Reeds continued to be made with startling consistency from the taste and packaging I remember from my childhood.
For those who have never had them, Reed’s are kind of like Lifesavers, except there’s no hole in the middle, just a slight dent. They’re individually wrapped, which makes for extra-sanitary sharing as well as the ability to pop out the individual candies and put them in your pocket for later (try that with a Lifesaver!). They come with eight little pieces in a roll. But what was really extraordinary about them was the incredible amount of flavor packed into such a small candy. Part of this was the exceptional texture - these were high-quality boiled sugar sweets that had very few voids or holes so they were extra smooth on the tongue and dissolved well.
The Butterscotch ones used real butter and had a nice hit of salt to them. Though I’m sure the recipes changed over the years (going with artificial flavors and whatnot) they were still much more flavorful than many other candies.
Cinnamon was not for the faint of heart. The little dented red disk had a smooth and soft mouthfeel at first and then exploded with a very strong cinnamon flavor that could rival an Atomic Fireball. It was like the flavor popped and sparkled with itty-bitty reservoirs.
Other roll candies and mints came in cinnamon and butterscotch but no one else made a Root Beer candy. Soft and spicy with a complex flavor that just made you want to roll the little candy over and over in your mouth. Reed’s Root Beer were my go to roll candy - they had the satisfying freshness of a mint and the tingly “activate those salivary glands” stimulation of a fruit sour.
They were always a 10 in my book. But I guess I ignored them and now they’re gone. Back in April they told their distributors that they weren’t going to be making them anymore and the supply was cut off. There are still a few places you can find a reserves on the web (and happily these hard candies are pretty durable when stored correctly):
I got my last rolls at Powell’s in Windsor, CA but they said that they will not ship nor sell whole boxes at any discount.
UPDATE: Reed’s are coming back. Iconic Candy of New York is working on their final formulations and packaging design and hope to have Reed’s back on store shelves in a limited number of flavors by the end of the year.
You can see the preview of their new candy revivals here. They’re also working on Regal Crown Sours and Bar None.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.
I went to the location in Chinatown in New York City while I was there. The store was kind of small and the woman behind the counter barked at me when I took some photos. This one was taken from the street. I actually think they’re doing their customers a disservice when they can’t take photos, because that’s the only reason I know what some of the candy is. It’s marked in the bins, but not on the wrappers.
They have a large selection of bins that contains individually wrapped candies or salted fruits or nuts and rice snacks. There are even samples of the fruits by the bins, but I made the mistake of taking what I thought was dried ginger and it turned out to be a salted plum. Quite a shock and made me parched instantly.
It’s not a huge store, but then again, they don’t have large tubs of everything. A third of the display space is for snacks and dried fruit, the rest is candy. Most of the candy is a mix & match by the pound, but some of it you could buy prepacked.
I liked just about everything in this mix. I chose carefully, so this is a good sign about the way that the packages are marked. Some have English on them, most are just pictures and sometimes the bin they were in at the store had some clues about the contents. Items came from all over Asia, some marked from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
I got some super fizzy sours, something called Zour Bomb, which was a cross between a cola flavored hard candy and a Zotz. However, partway through it got a minty flavor to it that kind of turned me off. The outside was dusty looking and super sour, then a hard candy and then the inside had another reservoir of sour. It also came in Lemon which was excellent.
Another was a little orange packet called Sour + from Lot100. It had little orange faces on it making sour impressions. It was a gummi, soft and about the size of a gumdrop with a sugar sand on it. Whoo, it was sour to start, then the soft gummi had a nice orange flavor to it. I would definitely buy these again. I wonder if they come in pineapple. That’d be cool.
Lot100 also had a nice Cola hard candy. It looked a little odd in that it was a plain red hard candy. It tasted like cola but had a slight hint of cinnamon.
Not everything from Lot100 was a hit - I had a rather promising Mango gummi that just didn’t quite hit the right balance. The texture was fantastic, plump and moist with a nice tart note but the mango “flavor” was less “pine meets melon” and more “burnt rubber.” Too bad.
Kasugai had a good assortment of fruit gummis, which I’ve reviewed before. I picked up Litchi and Muscat this time. They’re called super juicy on the label and they are plenty soft, but the litchi was a little flavorless and almost like a Turkish Delight. Muscat smelled wonderful and had a bit more complex flavor, something like white grape and orange blossom.
There was also a line of Milk candies that had calcium in them that came in interesting flavors like chocolate, vanilla and also red bean. They had an odd, firm, fluffed latexy quality to them, kind of like Hi-CHEW. I have no idea how much calcium is actually in it, but they were super soft and very satisfying. The vanilla was a little bland and the chocolate was kind of like a bouncy Tootsie roll, but I really liked the red bean. I mean, I really liked it. I’m sorry they’re gone now.
I picked up a few tea flavored candies, one from Thailand called Didi Honey Lemon Tea Candy was particularly nice. Only slightly tart, there was a nice play between tea and honey in there. The other brand was Cister from Malaysia wasn’t as pleasant looking (brown) but had a much stronger tea flavor and some mint thrown in (which made it taste more like a Ricola drop).
Another assortment were called S’Creams and were just hard candies with a milky swirl to them, kind of like Lifesaver’s Creamsavers. They were pleasant enough, with a Werther’s-like crunch if you bit them but a good tangy hit too to keep them interesting and satisfying. I picked up Orange, Strawberry and Melon.
There were a few flavors of these, I picked up Pudding Marshmallow, Grape Marshmallow, Mango Marshmallow and then two that have no English text on them - one has purple on its wrapper and the other has pink.
Mango Marshmallow - shown above - sucked royally. I had two of them, I at that bite of one and I gave the other to Amy, who promptly spit it out in my trash can. Why is it bad? It just is ... don’t make me think about it.
Pudding Marshmallow - it looks suspiciously like Mango, but thankfully is quite nice. It’s a marshmallow with a little lump of creamy, dulce de leche tasting filling in the middle. Not quite fudge, not quite creme, but pleasant and a little artificially vanilla tasting but with a tasty hit of salt.
Chocolate Marshmallow - there was no indication what this was, just a pink wrapper. The chocolate was a cross between frosting and a Tootsie roll. Not as good as the pudding one, but I liked it.
Grape Marshmallow - hmm, it was okay, but the grape filling was like cheap jelly and it just didn’t appeal much to me.
Basically, Aji Ichiban is as much of an adventure as you want it to be. You can grab a pound of simple mixed candies that you know and love or you can push the boundaries of your taste experiences and just shovel them into your bag blindly and see what happens.
I think the candy is horribly expensive for pure sugar stuff - $10 a pound is way up there even for the fancy fruit candies from Italy that I see at Zabars or something. But the variety is pretty special and with no minimums and the ability to mix and match is a huge plus. You can also order online, but there’s a half-pound minimum with most candies and of course the selection is limited. They have stores in several large cities across the edges of the United States, but they don’t have the addresses on their site.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
It’s hot. I’ve mentioned it before, and I know it’s summer ... but I’m guessing it’s hot wherever you are too and you’re wondering, “what sort of candy can I eat right now?”
But then I saw these at the 99 Cent Only Store. Tootsie has timed their new Limited Edition Pops rather well. It’s an assortment of five new flavors. Though they’re hardly tropical, as far as I’m concerned, they’re all nice flavors.
What’s great about Tootsie Pops is that there’s a bit of variety in that single sphere - a tangy piece of hard candy and the soft, vaguely chocolatey center. They’re easy to hold and don’t get you all sticky and only 60 calories a pop.
Pineapple - the one truly tropical flavor here, it’s peppy, tangy and nicely fragrant.
Tangerine - hardly tropical and barely different from the traditional orange, but I’m a huge fan of tangerine flavors and this one is pretty nice and goes really well with the lamely chocolate Tootsie Roll center.
Lemon-Lime - even less tropical because it’s not even exotic, but hey, it’s a nice sassy flavor. A little ordinary and not a very good combo with the Tootsie Roll core.
Watermelon - I’m never much of a fan of watermelon. The only watermelon I care much for is Jolly Ranchers ... but this was nice and the Tootsie Roll goes oddly well with the rather bland and sweet flavor.
Purple Punch - a rather nondescript punch flavor. Tangy, with some passion fruit notes but mostly a bland orangey.
Tootsie Pops aren’t the perfect lolly - they’re a little inconsistent, there are voids in the candy that can make them sharp from time to time and of course the twisted wrapper doesn’t always protect them from more humid conditions.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I’ve never had Warheads before. I’ve just carried on with my life without the blisteringly sour candies that they offer. You can capture customers for that sort of thing when they’re young, but you don’t just find women in their thirties picking up the super-sour habit, do you? Well, maybe if they have a blog and are looking for new experiences.
I’m skipping over all the other Warheads products because this one was free and I liked the package. It’s a friendly little flattened plastic tube with a flip top. You can hear the little candy spheres rattling around in there. The flavor set is wide - black cherry, apple, lemon, watermelon and blue raspberry. The little gauge on the back of the package says that the sour power contained within is EXTREME and there’s an additional warning:
I’d say that’s probably good advice. It took me two separate tastings to write up this review and after the second one my tongue was a little numbed.
The candies themselves are very pretty. Bright colors with a slight powdered look to the surface, I was guessing that they were coated with some sort of super sourness. They don’t smell like much, just a kind of vague fruit punch when they’re all together, but after reading the warnings, my mouth was watering.
Blue Raspberry - the first impulse on the tongue is a floral raspberry that quickly becomes as blisteringly sour bite that last only as long as that scant coating on the outside. Then it’s just a nice, small sourball. The blue raspberry is actually a nice hard candy after that with a lot of flavor. They’re easy to chew up so you can get on to the next one.
Apple - no flavor to start with here, just that so-tart that it’s almost salty. The apple flavor starts in shortly after that with a good rounded flavor that leans to the chemical side.
Watermelon - there’s a nice woodsy watermelon flavor on the top of this one and it goes really well with the tart coating, just like some people like salt on their watermelon. The watermelon candy underneath is really refreshing and more authentic tasting than I expected.
Black Cherry - the intense sourness on this one completely overshadowed the underlying flavor for quite a while. The black cherry wasn’t as intense as I thought it would be - not even as strong as a cherry Lifesaver. Not that I’m complaining as I don’t care much for cherry, but the others seemed to have more flavor to them.
Lemon - gotta be my favorite (I think I like all yellow candies). The sour goes so well with the lemon, which is a full-bodied version with a little bit of oily zest flavor combined with the sourness.
I don’t know if I’d buy these again, but I like the size and proportion of these little pieces. They’re about the size of a Lemonhead, and what’s nice is the flavor variety in one package (even though I’m not fond of all the flavors, they’re all passably good, even the cherry). The recloseable top makes it easy to share and easy to save them for later after your tongue has healed. They’re not as blisteringly sour as the Super Lemon from Japan, which in my estimation makes them more edible.
Monday, May 29, 2006
In honor of the Memorial Day Holiday, I thought I’d do a candy that you usually find when you’re at a big summer event. Cotton Candy is one of those treats that I think most of us enjoy on the midway at the fair or other vacation spots. I’ve never bought cotton candy (or candy floss as the Brits and Canadians call it) for home consumption.
Pure Fun’s candy floss has a unique twist - it’s organic and all natural. That’s right, it’s made from pure, organically farmed cane sugar and a touch of natural flavoring/colors. They also make note that it’s vegan, which is kind of funny because I’ve never had cotton candy made with animal products before (I know some vegans take exception to commercially processed sugar because it might be filtered through charcoal that might contain animal bones).
The packaging also bills that there are no trans fats and no cholesterol. Well, I’m sorry, but DUH! I’m not sure who doesn’t know that cotton candy is spun sugar and how could it have any fats - good, bad, trans or otherwise? It’s also low in sodium, why isn’t that on the label? But the important thing is that this 1.5 liter tub contains only 2.12 ounces of sugar. I was watching Unwrapped over the weekend and one segment mentioned that good cotton candy is 80% air. You can eat the whole tub and it’s only 240 calories (all carbs though).
One serving is said to be a quarter of the tub. Which was actually a satisfying amount for me. I’m not sure if you could put a tub like this in front of a kid and expect them to eat only a portion. Of course, I’m not sure how you’d “serve” it otherwise ... take out the scissors and cut off a quarter of it and put it on a plate?
Okay, enough of the snarking. They were nice enough to send me five tubs containing four flavors ... so let’s get to it!
Canadian Maple - this was pure genius! How could there not be a maple cotton candy before now? It’s a natural flavor combo and the taste is insanely good. Woodsy and sweet and of course the texture of the fluffed sugar is sublime. This one had the best texture of the four, ultra smooth and superfine. Since they gave me two tubs of this, I took one next door and everyone thought it was “expletive-deleted-good.” By far this was everyone’s favorite who tried them all (including me).
Root Beer - I was expecting something subtle here, as cotton candy isn’t really known for “flavor” but the root beer here was intense. A good, slight, wintergreen burn after it dissolved kept me eating more and more of it. It’s like a spun root beer barrel!
Licorice - I’m not sure how this is going to go over with other people, but I thought this was an excellent flavor. It smelled a little medicinal, but on the tongue it was great. It was like a black jelly bean, except my tongue didn’t change color and there are no sticky bits stuck in my teeth. It’s a lovely
Bubble Gum - I’d heard about this before and so I saved it for last. It doesn’t smell quite right and looks an awful lot like insulation. A little musty odor combines with the sweet sugar. Holy Moly it’s bad. I don’t know why it’s bad and I’m not sure I want to know, but the taste is off. Bubble gum flavor (as in Bazooka) has always had a little wintergreen hint in my mind and then there are bubble gum flavors that are a little fruity like JuicyFruit ... this was neither. This was just a jumble of bad associations wrapped up in sweet. Pure Fun needs to dump this flavor or seriously reformulate. If I hadn’t read other reviews of this flavor, I would have thought I had a bad batch.
They make one other flavor, Cinnamon, that wasn’t in my assortment, but if it’s as good as the Root Beer, I’m on board. Their website even has recipes for using candy floss as a pie topper, for sundaes and even in martinis.
I don’t think that pure sugar can ever be considered a health food, but without the addition of preservatives, artificial flavors or colors as well as their organic, vegan and Kosher certifications, Pure Fun has removed any trepidation anyone might have for buying a cool and sweet indulgence. The smallish tub also controls portions. I honestly didn’t think I would like this as much as I did, but I’ve found myself sneaking little bits of fluff over the past few days of all three of the good flavors.
The only issue at the moment is where to buy this fluff. They’re not in stores yet (or at least not according to their website) and everyone who has tasted it has found it via a show of some sort (Candy Expo Toronto or Fancy Food Expo). They don’t even sell it directly through their website. I’ll try to post an update when I hear that it’s for sale. I don’t even know what the expected price is for one of the tubs. I’d be willing to pay as much as $4 for it.
UPDATE: I almost forgot, check out the Candy Critic - he’s also gotten a hold of some, and you can see how he does his reviews (which really isn’t that different from how I do mine).
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:18 am
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Pop Rocks are a Spanish product, so it’s only natural they would angle some of their product towards the large Hispanic market in North America. I this at the Walgreen’s in Echo Park, which is (or was) a rather traditional Hispanic neighborhood in LA. Half of the package is in Spanish, just as half the packaging in Canada is in French.
The top half tells us that it’s Salt and Lemon Pop Rocks ... Popping Candy. The bottom half says Sal y Limon ... Dulce con Chasquido.
I didn’t know what the word chasquido meant (though by context it means popping) so I looked it up on babelfish. No luck there ... so I googled the word and found a page in Spanish that had a definition, which I then ran though the translator. So, the bad internet translator says:
But you want to know about this strange savory, sweet and tangy version of Pop Rocks, right?
First, you have to shake it well because the salt and rocks tend to separate. Then I poured it on my tongue and I admit it was a riot of tastes - they’re all there. The salt is, well, intensely salty. It’s the first ingredient on the list, so there’s a lot of it in there. Next, it was bitter, like some sort of mineral taste. Then the rocks started popping and releasing a bit sugar and there were other little snaps of sour released as well.
It was hard to keep it in my mouth. It’s really salty. I’m used to salt as a condiment, not as the main dish. There are 984
milligrams of salt in this little package - that’s about 50% of your daily allowance or about as much as you’d find in a serving of canned soup. Of course the recommended “portion” for these Pop Rocks Limon is 1/8 of the package.
I had one mouthful of the stuff and then tried dumping some out on a piece of paper and just eating the rocks but it’s just too salty for me. I’d also like it to taste more like lemon. How hard would it be to put a little zesty lemon flavor in there too? I’m thinking someone might be able to come up with something interesting to do with this savory version of Pop Rocks. Maybe use it as the final garnish for a salad or something. Could be the next trend in haute cuisine.
The one thing that I did really like about this version of Pop Rocks is the packaging. The long, narrow tube is much easier to handle than the flat packs that Pop Rocks usually come in. It’s easy to fold over and reseal and easy to dispense onto the tongue.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
What’s truly baffling in the whole confectionery world is that most sweets are made from the same ingredients. Yet the processes applied to them and the combinations can yield vastly different results. The Bunny Basket Eggs reviewed last week are an excellent example of sugar done wrong.
Konpeito (or Kompeito) is just sugar, and done so well. These little rocks, about the size of a pea and simply rock sugar with a little food coloring. And when you compare iit to those awful marshmallow Easter eggs, it makes no sense.
If you ever saw Spirited Away, you may have seen this candy. They’re little multi-faceted sugar crystal lumps that look like three dimensional stars.
There’s not much else to say about them except that they’re sweet and cute. If you’re looking for a special little something exotic for an Easter basket, these might fit the bill, the packaging is pink and pretty and of course the little pastel morsels of sugar are, well, rock candy. And rock candy rocks. You can even pick up a package and use it when you serve tea or coffee as a cuter version of the old sugar cubes.
See also: CandyAddict.com review, JunkFoodBlog has more on the cultural significance and limited edition versions and Wikipedia has a full entry including the references to Kompeito in media.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Ferrara Pan is a favorite of mine for one product they make: Lemonheads. No one else makes anything like it. It’s a hard, sweet lemon candy coated in a grainy, super sour coat and then a sweet “lemon peel”. Genius.
When I was a kid there were a bunch of varieties of these candies and they each had a cool name. There was Alexander the Grape, Johnny Apple Treats and Mr. Melon. Somewhere between the late eighties and the present Ferrara Pan dumped those names and reintroduced the fruit flavored, layered candies under the Lemonheads style naming convention.
The original. The classic. The. Perfect. Lemon. Candy.
Fantastic idea - it’s a Lemonhead, only it’s orange! The color is vibrant and they have both the zesty orange taste and the tartness. They’re not as blisteringly tart as Lemonheads, but the flavor can’t be beat. I don’t think these existed under another name way back when, but better late than never! My second favorite fruit head!
Well, folks know my feelings about cherry flavor. This is the classic cherry with some good rounded fruity notes and a sour bite to it. Like a cherry Lifesaver, only spherical and tarter. The original name of this candy was Cherry Chan ... so it’s probably good that Ferrara Pan decided to rename the whole line into something less offensive. (Though they briefly renamed them to Cherry Clan and changed the art a little bit.)
I used to eat these all the time as a kid. I loved the name, Alexander the Grape and the package logo was a little grape wearing a Trojan helmet. The color is a little surprising, as it’s very dark purple, almost navy blue or black. The flavor is a more complex grape than many other grape flavored candies these days and the package boasts “real fruit juice.” Of course the real fruit juice listed is apple. There are Appleheads, but I didn’t find those at the store (and had to get a smaller box of the Grapeheads because they weren’t available in the larger size).
When I first started on my Lemonheads/Alexander the Grape kick I was in grade school. We lived in Munroe Falls, OH and in good weather me and my older sister and younger brother were allowed to walk about a half a mile down the rural highway, over the Cuyahoga River and the Falls and then train tracks to the Stop ‘n Go in “downtown” Munroe Falls. This was the store where I also discovered such non-confectionery wonders as Pringles, Doritos and of course Starbursts, the Marathon Bar, Jolly Rancher Fire Stix and Charms Sweet ‘n Sour Pops with my allowance. Lemonheads were desireable because they were cheap and the box could be used as a noisemaker later. Sadly, the boxes are now the tab-top variety and no longer make that noise. (Chicket’s boxes still do, though.)
I like to eat my Lemonheads by peeling them with my teeth. First I anchor a candy at my first molar and crack about a third of the shell off. This reveals the super sour layer. Then I move the candy to my front teeth and pry off the rest of the peel using my teeth and tongue (if you’re wondering, yes, I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue). Then after the sourness is exhausted, I chew up the rest of the sweet candy and repeat until the box is empty. Giant Lemonheads are dealt with in a similar manner but I think that classic Lemonheads are better since the ratio of sour coating to candy is a little better. I wish the candy centers had a bit more flavor, but I’ve loved them ‘as-is’ forever, so I shouldn’t be advocating any changes. I also wish the the unfortunate Narbles that they introduced a few years back had this same sour peel to them.
Lemonheads and their fruity brethren are the perfect traveling candy. I enjoy hard candy when I’m on long road trips because of the variety of flavors and the interactivity which requires no hands (some fireballs must be removed from the mouth when they get too hot). The little burst of sour keeps me awake and engaged and of course being a pure sugar candy there’s fewer calories per ounce than something with chocolate in it. On my wishlist would be a few other flavors - including Grapefruit and maybe Strawberry and it would be cool to be able to buy a mixed bag of all the flavors.
You can watch a virtual tour of how Lemonheads are made in the panning process.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:12 am
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.