Monday, May 12, 2008
I’m kind of ridgid with my definition of gummi. I consider it a jelly-type candy made with gelatin. So just by that definition vegetarians can’t eat gummis because gelatin is an animal product. But gelatin gives gummis an inimitable bounce and chew that no other ingredient has been able to match.
But every once in a while a product comes along that does a pretty good simulation of a gummi, and in this case it’s not only vegan but also mostly organic. Enter Surf Sweets Super Sour Worms. If you’re looking for a candy with no artificial anything that still feels like the candy all the other kids are eating, this just might be it.
The ingredients list is short: Organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup, citric acid, pectin, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), colors (black carrot juice concentrate, turmeric & annato), natural flavors. So for anyone concerned about corn products, those are also not on the list.
The sugar sanded worms are pretty firm, they’re still bendable (even posable) but not at all sticky. The sugar sanding is pure sweet, not blasting acid wash here. (So kids who are used to really sour candies might be disappointed here.)
Inside the stiffy jelly candy is pleasantly chewy, plenty tangy and comes in different flavors.
One is a cherry & lemon (alternating yellow & dark red), on the wild cherry side of flavors, rather woodsy and sour enough to keep my salivary glands a-tingling.
The solid amber orange one is orange, or perhaps tangerine. It’s an authentic-tasting citrus mix.
If you leave the package open they will get a bit firmer, which is the way I preferred them. Right out of the bag they were very soft, kind of limp but extremely juicy.
They’re made in a peanut-free, tree nut-free, soy-free, and gluten-free facility, though they’re not certified Kosher, they’re also vegan.
I’m glad to see that Surf Sweets is continuing their trend of making (mostly) organic, all natural versions of mainstream treats. There are very few compromises here if you’re a parent looking for a treat for the kids that doesn’t have the dreaded glutens, nuts or artificial colors. The packaging is friendly looking and won’t make the kids feel like freaks either.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Judson Candies was started in 1899 by E.J. Jenner who later brought J.W. Judson in as a partner in 1910. Judson later bought him out and renamed the company. Most notably Judson developed the “more tart jelly bean” in the 1930s, which is the chewy sour ball that we all know today from so many different companies. Judson Candies was then purchased in 1983 by the Atkinson family (already a popular company in Texas with the Chick-o-Stick) and renamed Judson-Atkinson Candies.
I was hesitant to pick up a whole box of Cherry Sours (but ended up being given this box as a sample at All Candy Expo), so I was pretty happy when I stumbled across these little packets of Assorted Sours at the 99 Cent Only Store.
They do look like little gumdrops with a bright jelly bean coating.
The bag holds a variety of five flavors. Though the package design is a little, I don’t know, elementary-school looking. If you can’t make it out here in the photo, there’s a lemon about to slam dunk a cherry (who seems pretty happy about it) and a green apple off to one side waving his arms like he’s open (as if the lemon is gonna pass it to him and not do his dunk?).
All that aside, what’s inside is a candy that I think pleases all ages.
Each sour ball has a crunchy, crumbly candy shell like a jelly bean. The center is lightly flavored and colored. The outside is really brightly colored.
Green Apple has both the artificial chemical “invented” green apple flavor and a nice hint of real apple juice flavors. It’s not terribly tart, but certainly flavorful from start to finish.
Lemon has a bit of a powdery lemon flavor, like lemonade mix at first, which then mellows out into a rather nice zesty lemon. Not sour.
Tangerine was the one I looked forward to the most, as I love tangerine candies. It was similar to the lemon, it tasted more like tang than tangerine, but a little more on the tangy side.
Cherry is what Judson-Atkinson is known for. These taste like tangy, chewy Cherry Lifesavers. After the tartness goes away, it’s a little more medicinal than floral.
Grape is the one that really bugged me (really, I was fine with Cherry). It reminded me of violets and those scented magic markers more than grapes or grape candy. While the apple had real apple-ness to it, this one just felt more like too much red food coloring. Luckily there weren’t that many of them in my assortment.
The centers are very firm, but extremely smooth, probably because they use both corn starch and tapioca to give them a extra jelled texture.
I would love to see what they could do for Pineapple and Grapefruit ... maybe Lime. (A Blue Raspberry exists, but isn’t in this mix and a Tropical but that features Pina Colada, Peach, Mango, Watermelon & Fruit Punch.)
The ingredients list lots of artificial colors: Yellow #5 & #6, Red #3 & #40, Blue #2 and Carmine (which makes these unsuitable for vegetarians/vegans).
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Last year Mike and Ike let us vote for a new flavor blend and when the winner was clear, they announced the new Mike and Ike Lemonade Blends. But it wasn’t just a new flavor set, this one has a tie in with the foundation called Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which supports research into pediatric cancers.
There was also a stunning candy buffet, as you can see, that featured all the Mike and Ike flavors and little bags where you could design your own mix. (Mine was mostly pineapple from the Tangy Twister mix and some strawberry-banana from Tropical Twister and a strong dose of the new Lemonade Blends.)
I went to a press reveal at All Candy Expo last September where Alexandra Scott’s father told the story of his little girl who started a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research, all while she was battling the cancer that would ultimately take her life at the age of eight. (There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, it’s an amazing story of a selfless kid.)
Just Born will be making a minimum donation of $100,000 a year for three years. (And this mix will return each spring/summer as well.)
Finally the candies are hitting stores and I can post my review!
I was pleased with the quality of the Mike and Ike Tangy Twister, but didn’t care much for the set of flavors. Since citrus is one of my favorite flavor sets, I had a much better feeling about the new Lemonade Mix.
The new assortment has the following flavors: Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Lime Lemonade, and Tangerine Lemonade flavors. The odd part is that these flavors aren’t mentioned on the package, or even on the website, unless you dig deep into the Just Born press release archive. But there are little images of five different fruits on the package, so I guess folks need to make the jump themselves.
Yellow - Lemonade - a good zesty and really sour lemon. After chewing, as with most Mike and Ike, the flavor fades and it’s just pleasant and bland jelly candy.
Green - Lime Lemonade - not as tart as the lemonade, but has a good rounded lime flavor.
Orange - Tangerine Lemonade - I was hoping this one would be really tart but it didn’t quite rise to that. It’s definitely tangerine and not orange though.
Light Pink - Strawberry Lemonade - I enjoy real strawberry lemonade and this has a nice mix of the fragrant berry and the tangy lemon-ness.
Purplish Pink - Raspberry Lemonade - not as tart as the strawberry, this has a more floral berry essence to it.
They’re all tasty and all have that lemony zazz to them. It’s easy to eat them together or separate your colors. I liked all the flavors ... I wish they were just a little more flavorful, but that would be wishing away one of the essential parts of Mike and Ike, which is the mellow jelly center. (Which is made with pear juice.)
Mariko at Candy Addict also had a preview of these and found them so good she’ll be happy to hear that they’re on shelves so she can get more now. For more fun Mike and Ike adoration, check out Jason Liebig’s photo set of his collection of boxes.
The package says that these are Gluten Free. The colors are all artificial, so I guess these are also Vegan.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Jelly Belly prides itself on its extensive flavor list. (See Brandon’s exhaustive tasting notes and listings of all the flavors that have ever existed.)
Jelly Belly has had a chocolate pudding flavor in the mix for quite some time and I’ve avoided it for the most part. Chocolate is not a flavor, it’s an experience made up of far too many things like alkaloid compounds, monounsaturated fats and polyphenols that simply cannot be bottled and applied to other confections.
Jelly Belly went ahead and introduced a new bean anyway, Dark Chocolate. I picked up some samples at the Fancy Food Show, tasted a few and then put them away for a time when I wasn’t innundated with so many good things.
In short, chocolate jelly beans are to chocolate the same thing that Tootsie Rolls are. Something utterly different and unsatisifying if you were expecting anything approaching chocolate. However, if you’re looking for something that’s durable and attractive, but not necessarily tasty, these may be your new favorite.
They got the color right, they’re pretty. A little on the dark purple side (cuz of all those artificial colors like Red 40, Yellow 6 & Blue 2) and containing not more than 2% of actual chocolate.
But they’re postively bitter to me. I chomp down ... there’s a mild sweet taste, like cocoa made with hot water, but then there’s a strong bitter blast. I’m not sure if it’s all the antioxidants (hah!) or the artificial colors, but they’re just inedible.
I thought at first it was just a bad bag, or just me. So I opened a different sample bag that was sent to me later by Jelly Belly. Same thing! Turns out I’m not alone, both Caitlin & Brian at Candy Addict recorded the same reaction.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
This is one of the most incongruous bits of packaging I’ve seen in a while. Hot Tamales branded jelly beans, in spice flavors ... okay, so far so good. But the colors are all, I don’t know, racy.
Spice jelly beans are far from racy. They’re eaten by little nostalgic old ladies and middle-aged European guys as palate cleansers. These are packaged like they’re supposed to appeal to the NASCAR crowd (not that they wouldn’t enjoy them ... Mike and Ike even have an association with NASCAR).
But still, spice jelly beans are hard to find these days, and it’s even harder to find them made in the USA. (Yes, I get emails from people looking for American made spice jelly beans.)
Just Born is known for it’s jelly bean type products, which are their Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales as well as their lesser known line of Teenee Beanee, a gourmet jelly bean.
What strikes me as especially odd about these (on top of everything else) is that Just Born also has a line of spice jelly beans that Sera at Candy Addict just reviewed yesterday!
They’re lovely looking beans, a little bigger than the Jelly Belly everyone is so used to these days, but not as large as the Brach’s Jelly Beans.
The variety has five flavors (the only ones left out of the “traditional” spice mix are licorice and lemon): Wintergreen, Peppermint, Clove, Spearmint and of course Cinnamon.
The color mix is a little odd too, the assignment of colors defies ordinary candy traditions, but I suppose none of that is written in stone either. At least they have a key on the back.
Really, all that’s missing here is Licorice. But the Licorice beans were sold separately ... literally, in their own bag. There’s also a separate bag of Hot Tamales Cinnamon Jelly Beans, but that’s just silly! Hot Tamales are cinnamon jelly beans!
The beans are traditional pectin thickened, many just use corn starch these days. But they’re not Kosher for Passover (but plain old Kosher). They’re also gluten free. I don’t know if these will be sold year round of if they are just a seasonal offering.
Thanks to Rebecca on Flickr who helped me find these!
Friday, March 14, 2008
Gimbal’s is one of those candy companies where you’ve probably had their products, you just don’t realize it because they’re often sold in bulk. They have fun little sour jelly stars, sour sanded bears and licorice scottie dogs.
They also have an extensive line of Gourmet Jelly Beans.
They’re similar to Jelly Belly, they’re a similar smaller size, have different color codings for the flavors and in this instance, come in an assortment of dozens of flavors in one bag (41 in this case). I’ve seen these 7 ounce bags for sale at Walgreen’s, usually for about $2. I know that CandyDirect.com sells single flavors of these (and you may find them in bulk bins that aren’t identified by brand). At only $3.40 a pound online, that’s about a third off to half off the price of Jelly Belly.
I don’t have tasting notes for absolutely every flavor, but here are a few of the highlights of what I picked out of the mix over the past week:
Tiramisu - like a caramel coffee creamer.
Too many reds! There’s cherry, cinnamon, raspberry, fruit punch, red delicious. I had similar problems with the orange/yellow things. But this is an issue with many candies that have too many flavors in one bag.
I’d probably prefer to buy a more narrow mix of these, like just fruits or maybe carnival flavors (toasted marshmallow, bubble gum, red delicious, root beer… maybe someone needs to invent a funnel cake flavor).
The beans are nicely formed and all had an even amount of distinctive flavor.
Gimbal’s is not only Kosher, but also a facility free of most of the major allergens. They are tree nut/peanut, gelatin, gluten, dairy and egg free. So if you like Jelly Belly but have to avoid gluten and peanuts, this would be an excellent option. As a bonus, Gimbal’s are less expensive than Jelly Belly. Just harder to find.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Just to make things clear, the package says, “Tangy Fruit Flavors” ... just in case people thought they were some other assortment of flavors associated with Smarties. They never actually say which fruits they are, though.
Actually, I think Smarties are an ideal Easter candy, with their pastel colors and light flavors. I like Smarties. I like their lack of flavor, the way they dissolve so quickly and smoothly. I like their tiny tablet size, their light colors and complete indistinguishableness from one another.
These jelly beans were about the same price as others are these days, retail of $1.99.
The shell is a dry and a little crumbly and cool on the tongue (as dextrose usually is). The shells have a tangy and flavorful layer. The flavors aren’t very strong or complex. Grape is the most vivid, in that grape soda way. Green apple is pretty mild. Blue tastes like ball point pen ink smells (I think it’s raspberry). Cherry is very tart and then very sweet but less bitter than most pink/red cherry candies. Lemon was probably the sweetest of the bunch.
What was missing was the white Smarties, you know, that one that we all think is pineapple and is by far the best. (What? You don’t think so, too?)
The colors are bright and opaque, rather like highlighter pens. The funny part is that Smarties actually makes their lack of color in their compressed dextrose tablets a selling point. From their website:
In the case of these little jelly beans, I think they’re using just as much dye as everyone else. Most of all I noticed the similarities between the Smarties Jelly Bean and the SweeTarts Jelly Beans.
So I gathered up an assortment of both and put them side by side. The SweeTarts Jelly Beans are on the left and the Smarties Jelly Beans are on the right. They are extremely close in colors, although the Smarties are missing the orange one completely.
The beans were essentially identical with the Smarties being slightly more flavorful, mostly in the tangy layer. The colors very little but the purple and the green are the easiest to tell apart by looking at them and the blue in the SweeTarts version is punch flavor, not raspberry.
I really don’t have a preference of one over the other. If you have a choice, I say go with whichever is cheaper or whichever brand you feel you prefer to support.
They’re both made in Canada and come in 14 ounce bags, though their ingredients label differs slightly ... so it’s entirely possible that this factory churns both out under contract with Nestle or CeDe Candy.
While all of the Smarties compressed dextrose products are gluten, nut and milk free, the Smarties Jelly Beans are made in Canada and are made in a facility that processes all the hit-list allergens: peanuts, nuts, milk products, soy products, wheat, eggs and sesame seeds.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
It’s a candy resurrection story! Good & Fruity has been reissued by Hershey’s after being off the market for several years (could this petition have anything to do with it?). It should be available in stores any day now.
Good & Fruity is the companion candy to Good & Plenty, which is a sugar-shelled licorice. Really, there’s very little that’s similar about them, though at one time Good & Fruity was a candy coated fruit licorice nib.
The current incarnation of Good & Fruity, simply put, is jelly beans. Tiny, narrow jelly beans in a box.
They’re a little different from typical jelly beans, the shell isn’t as grainy, mostly because there’s so little shell. It’s crispy and has a light cool feel on the tongue with the sweeter flavors.
Lemon - tart, but not quite lemony.
Some of the G&F were a little inconsistent. Some were tangy, others were plain and sweet, like they’d missed their flavor coats.
The colors are vibrant and really compelling. Like little pieces of beach glass.
These are probably a good movie candy, a palatable mix of flavors, easy to eat with a very low mess factor. I’m just not that into them. They’re Kosher and unlike Good & Plenty, the colors here are all artificial so I guess it’s okay for vegetarians. Earlier versions of the candy were known as Good ‘n Fruity.
UPDATE 5/4/2010: For those who miss candy coated red licorice, you might want to find Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans. While they’re not exactly like the original Good ‘n Fruity, they’re closer than this.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.