Hard Candy & Lollipops
Friday, December 16, 2005
Name: Ribbon Candy
When I was a kid I used to buy ribbon candy for my mother for Christmas. It was pretty stuff but I never remembered it being very good. I think part of the problem is that most people put it in a dish or some sort of display for the holidays and it gets all sticky.
Ribbon Candy is simply hard candy flattened out into long ribbons and then folded up like little puffs and twists. They’re usually pretty colors and often flavored according to those colors. This box contains a mix of minty and fruity flavors. The box also has a beautiful photo of the candy on it. The stuff inside doesn’t look quite like that.
First, the ribbons are not uniform. The doubling of the candy strips to form the loops was rather inconsistent and the ribbons weren’t flat, so I’d set them out to photograph and they’d rock. Second, they were not glossy and luminous like the box. I know that they have been in the past. I know the stuff I used to get for my mother looked like it was spun glass. I don’t know if it’s because this is a bad batch or that it’s just not as good anymore, but mine looked milky and dull. Only one was broken, so I was pleased that the poor box wasn’t handled poorly.
The candy itself is kind of neat to eat. Messy, but pretty interesting. You can’t just break off a little loop, it seems for each loop that you want the other half is pulverized into shards as you break it off. We’re all used to the dense sugar of the hard candy, but the wafer thin ribbons rather melt on your tongue. The flavors are ordinary and sweet, no tartness in the citrus flavors. The plain white one was cool because it was vanilla. There aren’t that many vanilla hard candies out there. The oddest thing was that the red and green striped one was some sort of strange mint. A toothpaste mint, which I’m guessing is a blend of spearmint and peppermint but tastes a little too much like toothbrush for me.
You can read more about F.B. Washburn and Sevigny’s at their home page. But here’s the part I liked best:
Did you know that there’s a “ribbon candy business” and that it was so consolidated now?
The other interesting thing is how low in calories these are. A full ribbon, which is a little over an ounce and looks huge is only about 60 calories. So if you’re looking for a little holiday indulgence that won’t fatten you up so fast, a couple of ribbons instead of a piece of pie ala mode might save you about 300 calories. It’s actually kind of nice to have with a little tea and the calories probably end up being lower consider that much of it shatters into microscopic shards that you’re more likely to inhale than consume.
Rating - 6 out of 10.
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Name: Whistle Pops
If you ever saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you’ll know exactly what this is. It’s a candy, it’s a musical instrument! Though the whistle pops tooted by Dick Van Dyke were more like little recorders (ala a piccolo), these are slide whistles.
Chupa Chups, I must say, are awesome lollipops. First, they’re very flavorful. They’re well packaged (nothing worse than a damp piece of hard candy) and have the added bonus of a plastic stick. Why is this good? Well, I’m a drooler and don’t like the pasty mess that a paper stick becomes when I’m eating something like a Charms or Tootsie Pop.
There were four flavors in this package: Green Apple (unwrapped in the photo), Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Strawberry. Basically, some of my least favorite hard candy flavors (my favorite Chupa Chups are the coffee ones). The texture of the candy is a little different, a little less clear and sparkly. This might be a manufacturing thing so that they can operate as whistles or might be the fact that I bought them at the 99 Cent Store.
Instead of just being a one note whistle, these have a hollow straw for the stick and there is a little sliding plunger that allows you to change the pitch of your whistling. They really work and they sound pretty good. However, as soon as you bite off the top or dissolve enough of the top, the whistling effect is gone. The flavor is nice, tart and highly scented. All change the color of your tongue. (Made in Spain.)
Rating - 7 out of 10
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Name: Barley Sugar
Some folks look down their noses at hard candy. Like it’s not candy or it’s a last resort. What’s great about hard candy is that it’s incredibly portable and comes in huge varieties and is generally pretty cheap. And for the most part it’s pure sugar. While I don’t buy a lot of hard candy, I do enjoy it for particular tasks, like high-velocity noveling, whale watching excursions and long car trips.
When I was a kid we used to get barley sugar pops. They were lollipops shaped like old fashioned toys like trains, teddy bears, little dollhouses and animals. The flavors were delicate, not like a Charms sweet & sour pop, but more like a dreamy honey flavor with a touch of lemon or orange. Some have no flavor at all, like the Valentine’s hearts pops. For some reason most barley sugar candy seems to come in lollies. I have no idea why.
Barley Sugar is kind of like molasses, it’s a rather raw syrup made from germinated grains (usually barley) and is often used along with cane sugar and corn syrup to both add flavor and color to boiled candies.
These little sweets look a little like Clementine orange slices, a rich amber orange hard candy. The flavor is sweet with a nice touch of orange essence and no hint of sour. The candies are very solid and smooth with no voids or bubbles in them. The dissolve evenly and have a nice crunch if you’re one of those (I am, I can’t just let a candy dissolve in my mouth, I will chew it up).
They’re a little ordinary, but sometimes I like that ... sometimes I don’t want screaming green apple or supersour lemon drops. Sometimes I want a cup of Earl Grey tea and a few demure sweets. They’re not attention grabbers, but they’re a wonderful background music for my other pursuits.
Rating - 8 out of 10 (a little pricey for sugar)
Friday, July 29, 2005
I’m old enough to remember Pop Rocks when they were first introduced (then made by General Foods which later dropped them). And I liked them then. I also liked to experiment with them. You know, what happens if you put them in soda? In milk? Will the dog eat them? What if you dry your tongue out by holding it in front of a fan for twenty minutes and then put the pop rocks on it? The variety as a child was endless. (I guess my mother never stressed that whole, “don’t play with your food thing.”)
This new iteration of Pop Rocks solves one of the issues of dispensing Pop Rocks for consumption. Before you’d either have to pour it into your mouth or out onto you hand and it’d invariably get sticky there. This packet of Pop Rocks includes a little rocket shaped lollipop (of the same flavor) for wetting in your mouth and dipping into the foil pack. The lolly itself is pretty good, not terribly sour or flavorful, but a good delivery device.
Pop Rocks themselves are interesting, probably a candy to be enjoyed in a group. Tart and crunchy with a good fizz. When I was a kid, I think the only flavors they came in were orange and grape. I liked the orange best. The rocks themselves are more like flakes (I’m not sure, but I thought they looked like little crisped rice kernels when I was a kid, but who knows).
If I have one tip for the packaging is to put the lolly in a separate package and make the Pop Rocks envelope a little smaller. It’s damn hard to get the little lolly into that big bag where the Pop Rocks only cover the bottom of it. Also, it’s been damn humid here lately, so if you open the package and don’t eat it right away, be sure to close it tightly, mine ended up being one big pop rock.
Good fun. Additional Info - How Do Pop Rocks Work?, Mikey from the Life Cereal Commercials and Pop Rocks, Super 70s Website and the unofficial Pop Rocks website.
Rating - 6 out of 10 (I might buy it again if they made orange)
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
One of the best things about this blog is finding out about completely new varieties of candies I’d never heard of. One of these is Japanese Black Sugar Candy. Known as kuro sato, black sugar is basically brown sugar/molasses.
True brown sugar is basically sugar made from the whole boiled cane instead of just the cane juice that keeps the molasses. Molasses and black sugar is high in potassium as well as traces of iron, calcium and even a little salt. The taste of black sugar is similar to muscovado and has a salty, smokey taste to it. In the States, most brown sugar that you buy in the grocery store is just white sugar that has a bit of molasses added back into it.
Some Japanese just eat nuggets of black sugar as a treat (similar to maple sugar candies or Mexican panela). In fact, I used to eat brown sugar right out of the box as a kid. I loved the flavor of it. Many doctors and pharmacists have for years used muscovado-type sugars for medicinal use, either as a base for cough remedies or added to make medicinal syrups.
The Japanese use the bold taste of kuro sato to full effect in a lot of candies. Most are hard candies which are either for eating or for use as cough drops (often with the addition of honey or menthol).
Here are a few I found:
Name: Kuro Ame
from JBox - “A wonderful traditional Japanese hard candy, this is “Kuro-Ame” (Black Candy), a famous Japanese treat loved by everyone since the 1860’s. With a long history and a unique brown-sugar taste, this is a classical Japanese treat. One bag includes 22+ individual wrapped candies.”
Name: Pocket Black Sugar Throat Treatment Candy
In the tradition of a cough drop (similar to Ludens), this black sugar candy is packaged to carry easily in your pocket. Each piece is individually wrapped and has the distinctive taste of black sugar mellowed with a tinge of honey and menthol.
Name: Kasugai Honey & Black Sugar Candy
Shaped like little gems, these black sugar hard candies are individually sealed and packed with a little silica gel pack to keep them dry. They have a very smooth, sweet taste because of the honey. Not as smokey tasting as the Kuro Ame made by the same company, these are probably a great one to carry as a little pick me up and throat soother. Of the three products I bought, this is the one that is already gone.
Ratings - Kuro Ame - 6 out of 10
Also - see previous review of Asahi Drops (I didn’t know what Japanese black sugar was when I reviewed them)
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Here it is, the neatest thing to hit candy since citric acid. That’s right, the ultra-cheap LED technology is now being applied to candy. Malibu Toys has created a whole line of light up candies, with the Finger Lites as the center of the line. They have other products, like clip ons and necklaces, but they’re based around the same center of a battery hooked up to an LED. Personally, of all the formats I prefer the ring, since I really don’t want a slobbery piece of hard candy hanging around my neck and getting lint stuck to it.
The ring comes sealed in a little plastic pouch. To activate the light, you pull out a little paper tab that allows the battery to make contact with the wiring for the LED. Then it starts flashing. And flashing. The package says it will stay lit for at least two hours. Mine is still flashing and it’s been a week since I pulled the tab and ate the lolly.
I picked an orange one, though they come in a large variety of colors/flavors and have themed shapes for different holidays (Easter means bunnies and duckies, Halloween means vampires and pumpkins). The orange one was a little bland, not terribly tart or flavorful, but then again, it’s a novelty.
Would I buy this again? Hell yes, I’m planning my next party around them. I think the cool thing to do is probably figure a way to hang up the eaten ones on a string or something (maybe I’ll do it for a Christmas party and hang them on the tree). Some convenience stores are refusing to carry Finger Lites because they think that kids will chew up the LED/Battery. I’m one of those people who can’t help but chew up my hard candy and had no trouble telling the difference between the candy and the hard plastic housing for the light. In fact, I don’t think I could break it with my teeth if I tried. I’m wondering if those convenience store people tried them.
I know, I know, it’s not a terribly eco-friendly product either. Forgive me, I usually make good choices when it comes to that stuff, but I couldn’t help myself.
This candy gets points mostly for novelty, not taste, but it’s still a winner in my book.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Lollipops have kind of come back. When I was a kid there weren’t many good lollipops. There were those pretty ones that you’d see at the fair or candy shop - you know, those big paddle-looking ones that were of twisted hard tack. But they had no flavor. Then came the Charms pops, the Tootsie Pops and Blow Pops. There were the occasional novelty pop along the way, but that was pretty much it for some twenty years or so (I’m just saying this from memory ... I’ve done zero research).
Now there seems to be a revisiting of lollies. I noticed this a few years back when I discovered the wonderful Chupa Chups. These are great Spanish lollies that have good flavor, come in a huge assortment and have a PLASTIC stick, which means that it doesn’t fall apart on you if you’re a slobberer.
Name: Jolly Rancher Fruit Chew Center Lollipop
It’s kind of odd that this package doesn’t really give this candy a title. It’s Jolly Rancher, and it’s described in the sense that it’s assigned to be “GRAPE - artificially flavored” and “Fruit Chew Center” but it’s not really called Jolly Rancher Lolly or anything.
This was very artificially grape flavored and that’s okay. The flavor was through and through with a solid tart taste as well. The center was like a grape starburst, if they make those. What was a little weird though was the that lolly wasn’t made of a Jolly Rancher. You know, that tacky melty consistency that Jolly Ranchers have ... that’s not here. It’s not a bad thing, but something I missed.
Name: Way Sour Super Blow Pop
This is a downright huge lolly. It has a strong orange scent and an excruciatingly sour bite. Well, it’s called Way Sour, so I can’t complain. But I will. I think it comes from being an adult, there’s only so much sour I can take. I can eat Lemonheads because there’s a rest period when you’ve eaten through the sour layer. With the Way Sour Blow Pop, I never got there. I tried for about a half an hour and never made even a dent in this thing.
The flavor is great, very orangy, very sour. It’s not a blistering sour, but tart nonetheless.
UPDATE - I gave the Way Sour another try. I thought maybe my mouth was a little tender from eating too much fresh pineapple. Anyway, the second go around was much more doable, it’s still very tart, but has a lot of flavor, it’s not all about the sour. The gum center is a little bland after all that, and slightly rubbery instead of gummy. I’ve upgrade my initial score from a 4 to a 6.
Rating: Jolly Rancher Fruit Pops - 6 out of 10
See also - Starburst Chew Pops
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Name: Starburst Chew Pops (Green Apple, Orange & Strawberry)
I’ve got to hand it to Starburst. They’ve always packed their candies with flavor. When Starburst first came on the market, I loved them. They were much more flavorful than other taffy treats available at the time. Easier on the teeth, too.
Starburst now offers lollypops. In the tradition of Charm’s Blow Pops and Tootsie Pops, there are fruit flavored hard candy with a same-flavored Starburst fruit chew center.
I picked these up at the grocery store at the check out counter (thanks Russ!) for ten cents a pop. The orange is by far my favorite. It’s really orangy, and the flavor goes all the way through with the continuation in the chew. Dirt cheap, I know I’d buy these again. In fact, they’re perfect for Halloween (I like to give away a mix of chocolate and non-chocolate/nut treats for the kids).
I wasn’t as keen on the green apple flavor as it had a very unpleasant chemical taste to it. But then again, green apple usually does. The strawberry is good too, but also a little bit on the artificial side. They’re rather tart, which is something I enjoy in a fruit hard candy.
I hope they come out with more flavors. I bet I’d love lemon.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.