Friday, July 13, 2012
I reviewed the Sunkist Fruit Gems when they were made by a Los Angeles company called Ben Meyerson. Shortly after that, in 2006 Jelly Belly bought the rights to the candy and changed the flavor set. (Review of both versions here) Here it is, 6 years later and Jelly Belly has relaunched the Sunkist line using all natural ingredients (natural flavors including juices and natural colors).
While I like fruit jellies, I pretty much stick to orange slices or spearmint leaves (I know, not a fruit). The original flavor set was orange, lemon, lime, cherry, raspberry and grapefruit. Then the revamped flavor set (at the same price point but fewer candies in a package) was orange, lemon, lime and raspberry.
Neither thrilled me. Neither really lived up to the name of Sunkist, the citrus growers. Still, when visiting trade shows where Jelly Belly had samples, I always picked up a few of the citrus ones. I really wanted to like them more.
The new flavors are: lemon, orange, grapefruit, raspberry and blueberry. The colors, though natural, are still easy to discern and attractive.
The pieces are the same size as the previous versions, disks of soft jelly covered with large granulated sugar to keep them from sticking together. The sugar coating is just enough to keep them from binding, but not so much that there’s a lot of extra sugar in the bottom of the package. They really look like they should be sticky, but they’re not.
The pieces are flexible and soft, and made with pectin and starch to thicken them. Basically, it’s a vegan product, all vegetable products in there and nothing animal derived.
I particularly enjoyed the citrus flavors, they’re distinct and have a lot of citrus peel notes, even if it does make them slightly bitter. The raspberry is quite floral and has a strong boiled jam flavor to it. The blueberry was probably the most disappointing for me, but I really only like fresh blueberries. It was sweet with a little tannic note like iced tea but not much else going on with it.
Overall, an excellent revamp for a classic line of candies. They’re pricey for fruit jellies, but much cheaper than classic artisan pate de fruit. So think of them as an in-between product.
They’re available in a few packaging formats. This particular box is nearly a pound and just had loose candies inside two separate trays. Just keeping the box closed kept them pretty fresh, even with our higher than normal humidity in Southern California lately. They also come in an individually wrapped version which is better for a candy dish. They’re gluten free and peanut free.
Friday, June 22, 2012
But I realized that if I didn’t review them, I couldn’t get rid of them.
The marshmallows have a lot going for them in the concept department. They’re fruity marshmallows shaped and colored like the fruits they emulate. Green Apple is an uncommon flavor in marshmallows, so it has that unique selling proposition going for it as well. Plus, this marshmallow has a jelly filling.
The price wasn’t bad, they were $1.99 for a bag that was over 5 ounces and held about 18 marshmallows. They’re cute and great for decorating or garnishing any number of things. I was thinking these might be fun on the end of a long toothpick in an Apple Martini served in a lowball glass.
They smell slightly of old beer or hard apple cider. Of course it’s just my brain confusing artificial flavors with alcohol. Silly brain.
The sugary coating in this case is also tart, so there’s an immediate pop of flavor to go with the quite aromatic marshmallow. The fluff is soft and chewy, not quite latexy or overly gummy.
It’s really all over the map. The marshmallow is sweet and only lightly flavored, but the sour sugar coating gives it a strange texture and of course an unwelcome tartness. The jelly center is less jelly and more of a sap. It’s sticky and also strangely flavored, it’s a little tangy but also quite heavily flavored (and colored) with a less-artificial apple flavoring.
It’s just weird. They’re not as attractive, I think, as the Strawberry Mallo-Licious. The color is strange, a bit on the blue side and the jelly inside is overly colored, so much that I could taste it and it made my tongue blue-green.
It’s just not my thing, not that I’m opposed to fruity flavored marshmallows (the only ones I’ve found I like are the Japanese Eiwa ones sold in the US under the Hello Kitty brand). I’m still wondering if these can be toasted, though I have my doubts about the sour coating doing well near a flame. Right now, after eating only two, I’ve found I have a stomach ache.
Monday, June 4, 2012
One of my favorite candies, especially lately, has been Hot Tamales. They’re incredibly simple, basically just spicy cinnamon jelly rods. They’re cheap and easy to find. I have been buying the five pound bags at places like Smart & Final and at Jack’s Wholesale Candy in downtown Los Angeles. They look great in a candy jar and are an excellent pick-me up in the middle of the day or during long car trips.
Just Born, makers of Hot Tamales, recently introduced a new twist to their standard box. It’s called Hot Tamales 3 Alarm and as you might imagine, has three different spice levels inside:
The Hot level is orange. It’s mild but still a good mix of spicy and sweet.
The Hotter level is red. It’s warming but it’s just in the shell and dissipates pretty quickly. The flavor is well rounded, the woodsy bark flavors of cassia (sometimes sold as cinnamon but with a slightly more floral note to it), the sweetness of the bark and then the burn. There’s some throat tingling, but pretty much the normal Hot Tamale experience.
The Hottest level is maroon. It’s hard to tell these apart from the Hotter level sometimes, unless they’re side by side. But make no mistake, there’s a difference in flavor. The hotness is obvious. It’s more than just cinnamon hot, I could swear there’s some sort of capsaicin (hot peppers) in there. It burned my throat quite a bit. If I ate it with another level of hotness, I could take it, but otherwise I found it unpleasant.
I like the Hot Tamales Fire and I like the Hot Tamales classic. But I’m not so keen on this Hottest level in Hot Tamales 3 Alarm and find the Hot level a little too tame. Seems like Just Born got it right the first time, so that’s what I’ll stick with. This is fun, but nothing that will become a go-to candy for me.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Commercial peanut butter began in the United States, where about 6-7% of the world’s peanuts are grown in any year. Peanut butter was used heavily during war years as a cheap and relatively stable protein source for soldiers. The story goes that soldiers during World War II would eat sandwiches on stale bread with peanut butter for weeks on end, and to moisten the bread they would add jelly or jam. It didn’t hurt that it also made it taste better as well. When the soldiers returned home, they introduced their families to this cheap and easy food.
It seems kind of strange that for the most part candies are either jelly and chocolate or peanut butter and chocolate. There really aren’t any successful mass-manufactured chocolate, peanut butter and jelly candies. Maybe this new bar, all the way from Poland, will change that.
The bars are tiny, the box holds more than a half a dozen of them (8 to be exact), a little expensive for $1.99 but at least a unique item.
Each little bar is individually wrapped in a paper foil. The recommended serving size is three sticks, each is about 60 calories.
The bars are a little on the soft side, they smell like roasted peanuts and chocolate milk. The peanut butter filling is sweet and a little sticky. On top of the peanut butter is a thin layer of jelly. In this case it’s grape and though it doesn’t have much of intensity, it’s a little pop of tangy, juicy flavor. The peanut butter isn’t so much a paste, it’s far sweeter and has less of a roasted, salty and savory punch. Think of it like peanut butter cookie dough, sweet and thick.
The proportions are a little off for me. I’d like more jam, more peanut butter, but I think that’d mean a larger bar in general. The petite size makes them ideal for a small treat and I think the mild flavor set would be good for smaller kids. The two integral parts here, the peanut butter and jelly just aren’t good enough. It should be really intense peanut butter and great, all natural grape jelly, not some high fructose corn sweetener flavored like grape.
These are made in Poland and have all sorts of allergen notices on the package: made with soy, dairy, peanuts plus traces of wheat, tree nuts and eggs.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
In 1976 David Klein began selling a new kind of jelly bean he commissioned at a small ice cream parlor, Fosselman’s, in Alhambra, California. It was different in a lot of ways than the jelly beans folks usually sold. They were sold as individual flavors and included new flavors like Root Beer and Cream Soda along with the traditional fruity flavors like Very Cherry and Green Apple plus the required Black Licorice. This was the start of Jelly Belly and a revolution in the way that Americans viewed their sugar candy. Notably, it got people interested in intense and more unusual flavors as well as moving the bar on how much someone would pay for a pound of jelly beans.
The collaboration of David Klein with the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. came to an end when Klein was bought out. His settlement meant that he was paid a royalty for every bean sold (with a yearly cap) but couldn’t compete in the jelly bean category until that contract came to an end. Since its recent expiration, Klein has been collaborating with Marich Confectionery with family members of those that developed the original Jelly Belly in the 70s. The new line of David’s Signature Beyond Gourmet Jelly Beans are now available.
The beans are made with real fruit, flavorings and all natural colors. It’s a little frustrating to find out definitive information about the product line, the Leaf website has a couple of press releases, but no standard product information. The Facebook page for the product has a picture of their flavor offerings, which include wasabi, habanero, Thai chili and chipotle, but those weren’t in my sampler.
I found this sampler box on Amazon (sold by Oregon Trail Foods) for $16.95 for a half pound assortment of 16 flavors (plus shipping). I ordered it on Thursday and it arrived the following Monday. The box is a bit problematic, the little sections of the tray allow the beans to hop from one bin to another when the box is tipped, so when I opened mine I had to re-sort my beans. This was difficult for several of the colors which were extremely similar.
While the beans inside look great, I was disappointed at the flimsy and generic package that really didn’t entice me or create any excitement about what was inside. For something over $32 a pound, I expect a little of it to go into packaging.
David’s Signature Beans are unbranded and look like little pieces of polished glass. Each one was nearly perfect and consistently shaped. They’re a little larger than the Jelly Belly, which is on the right above. (The flavor on the left is cranberry, the one on the right is the Jelly Belly Snapple Cranberry-Raspberry, which is also all natural.)
Black Cherry is the flavor I heard that was really startling in this mix. The color is quite dark, a milky maroon color. The shell is firm and crunchy with a light and consistent graininess right beneath that.
The flavor is a little bit tart and a little bit sweet. But it’s nothing like real fresh cherries or fake cherries to me. It reminds me of cherry juice, in that it’s a deep and has a sort of boiled berry jam note to it, but nothing distinct.
The construction of the beans is very consistent. The centers were mostly colored, though not with some sort of imposed artificiality, it’s just whatever the combination of real fruits made them.
In some cases the centers matched the shell like the Black Cherry. In other cases they were colorless.
The flavor is floral, at first it’s like a raspberry flavor, but then it gets that little kick that I associate with blueberry. It’s a tannin note, kind of like tea. It’s a rather confused tasting bean though, because it ends with a little creamy note, almost a vanilla. So think of it more like a blueberry smoothie.
The shell is crisp, but not thick. The flavor is a very strong coconut milk, sweet and with that aromatic nuttiness. There’s no actual shredded coconut in the center, but the flavor is really authentic. It didn’t have that oily note that brings to mind hot and humid days by the pool with suntan oil, it was a bit cleaner than that.
Bacon is something I consider a novelty.
Bacon is also not a food I eat. I’d say it’s because I don’t eat pork, which is true (though I do eat candies with gelatin) but to go further, even as an omnivorous kid I didn’t like bacon. I don’t want a jelly bean that tastes like bacon. I’m not eating it.
Cranberry is very tart and bracing. There’s a light vanilla note to it as well and maybe a little hint of concord grape. I really like a good puckery cranberry, and I think if I were designing them, I’d make it even more sour.
That said, it’s still pretty well rounded and tastes more like dried cranberries than some sort of cranberry fruit juice cocktail.
Ginger is fascinating. It’s a bit of a tougher bean, the shell seems a little crisper. The flavor is immediately rooty, with lots of woodsy notes and less of that lemony tang that fresh ginger juice can have and more of the deep honey notes of ginger ale.
I would buy a bag of these, they also went well with the lemon, which is good, because they look nearly the same.
Grape was a good flavor, it was like grape juice, but missing that concord note that the Japanese seem to have pegged really well in many of their candies.
Green Apple was also very authentic, it was like unsweetened apple sauce, a cooked apple flavor without as much sour zing as a fresh apple.
I don’t know quite why I’d want to eat salted sugar, but there it is. I can understand a salted caramel jelly bean, but just a salted jelly bean is mystifying. It was a cross between eating cake batter and licking my own sweat off my arms. It was kind of like a sports drink, but without the actual flavor of fruit juice.
I didn’t catch much in the way of zest, which is too bad, because I think that would have sent this one over the top.
Though I wasn’t as keen on this one as I’d hoped, it paired very well with other beans such as strawberry and ginger.
Again the zest notes were missing, so it was more like a really good glass of Tang with an extra spoonful of the concentrate added to it.
Of course if this was called Fanta Orange, I’d want to add it to my soda pop mix and call it fabulous.
It’s a combination of apricot and peach, with a lot of tartness, quite a bit of “fuzz” flavor and a clean finish. It reminded me of baby food, really good peach puree.
I think what distinguishes pomegranate from cranberry is the floral notes for pomegranate. It was quite reminiscent of raspberry with a sort of dry finish like Key limes have when compared to Persian limes.
Root Beer is fantastic. All root beer candies should take a hint from this one. It certainly puts the other root beer jelly beans to shame, it’s far more intense and vibrant. There’s a lot of flavor without that artificial red aftertaste that I can get from Root Beer Barrel hard candies.
Of course this makes me wish for a whole set of soda flavored beans in exotics like tonic water, birch beer and guarana.
It’s sweet and tangy, but missing a bit of the floral note that I get with many other strawberry flavors. Instead this was more like jam than fresh strawberry. But these also varied, some were larger than others and some were tarter than others.
It’s best in combination and actually went well with coconut.
Vanilla Bean was also great. The vanilla flavor was creamy and rich with a lot of dimension. There’s the sweet and soft note of the vanilla extract and then the deeper bourbon notes of the vanilla beans.
There were real little bits of vanilla seeds from the pod which stuck with me for a while. That’s fine because vanilla went well with most of the other flavors, including ginger, root beer and strawberry.
Overall, they’re wonderfully vibrant even if I’m not fond of the direction of each of the beans. However, the price is prohibitive and not quite justified by the product. While I like the use of real, whole ingredients, the packaging was not worthy of a product that’s so expensive. My guess is that if they do catch on they economies of scale might bring things more into line with my expectations ($10 a pound is still steep in my world). The thing that would set them apart though would be the quirkier flavors such as ginger and perhaps other spices. I am curious to try the other more exotic flavors, but I’ll wait to find them in stores when I’m not paying shipping on top.
Other bean flavors I am interested in, if someone wants to make them: cola, lemon cola, rum, gin, molasses, peppermint, cucumber, celery, spearmint, cardamom, lavender honey and an intense all natural black licorice.
You can read more about the history of David Klein and Jelly Belly on MSNBC.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The candies come in a variety of packages from bulk mixes, peg bags to individual flavors. For the samples I got from Jelly Belly, they came in these cute little plastic bottles in the same shape as the Snapple glass bottles. They’re each filled with 1.65 ounces of one of the individual flavors.But you’re more likely to see packages with a mix of all five. Though I like just buying the flavors I like, in this instance the packages are unsustainable and wasteful.
As an American who remembers when Snapple was introduced nationally and their commercials with Wendy, the Snapple Lady I can say that I’ve always felt positive towards the brand. However, in all that time, I’ve probably had five or six of them. Even in my younger years when I did drink juice (rarely soda, even then), Snapple was always a little too bland for me. (I also don’t know how a company can say it’s made from the best stuff on earth if they’re using aspartame.)
The bottles have a little twist off top with a ring that kept me from losing them (though I think if you pry them off, they’re like the rings from one of those spout milk jugs that cats love to play with until they end up under the fridge).
Cranberry Raspberry are red with a light purple hue. They’re sweet and have a good floral berry flavor to them. There’s only a slight hint of tartness, which is too bad, because I love the zing of cranberries.
Pink Lemonade is kind of a weird product to start with. The beans here are quite pink and without much reason other than the fact that the color is in the name of the flavor. When I was a kid I thought that pink lemonade was pink because it had a touch of strawberry in it. But a little digging and I found out rather unsettling reasons for why early pink lemonade was pink. Anyway, Snapple’s classic Pink Lemonade is simply that, lemonade that’s been colored pink. This lemonade jelly bean is bland. There’s no tang, no real zest, just a mild lemon flavor.
Kiwi Strawberry is salmon-pink. The flavor is quite nicely rounded. The strawberry is center stage, sweet and floral with those toasted sugar notes of cotton candy. There’s a hint of sour and a pleasant and refreshing melon-kiwi note to it.
Mango Madness is orange colored. The flavor is a mild mango or perhaps peach flavor. It lacks the intense pine and tartness that real mangoes have. Instead it’s rather one-note with just the sweet, Indian mango flavor.
Fruit Punch is a luxurious looking dark red color, a color I might mistake for root beer. I wasn’t looking forward to it, as fruit punch has never been a favorite flavor of mine. The notes are distinctive and have that authentic fruit punch flavor (is that guava and pineapple?) but still tastes natural. There are lots of red berry and cherry notes and a little twang of pineapple and either guava or papaya (maybe both). It was all sweetness with only a fleeting burst of tartness as part of the candy shell.
Overall, the flavors were mild. If you’re the type of person who tried Jelly Belly and thought, “My goodness, these would be good if they were less flavorful.” Then perhaps these were the Jelly Belly you were waiting for. I think they give naturally flavored & colored candy a bad reputation. I already know Jelly Belly can make good tasting beans without artificial flavors and colors, so I can only surmise that this is what Snapple customers want.
If I were a huge fan of these, I could see myself re-using the little bottles by buying bags of the mixes and refilling for easy portioning. This mix isn’t really to my taste, so I don’t see myself buying it again. I can see it getting a lot of play in places where you don’t normally see Jelly Belly just because of the brand and flavor recognition of Snapple. Jelly Belly does most of these flavors better in their Superfruit Mix or their Citrus Mix.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Gimbal’s Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans were introduced on the heels of Gimbal’s other gourmet panned offerings, their Lovers line of heart shaped jelly candies like Cherry Lovers, Honey Lovers and Sour Lovers.
The jelly bean mix has a gourmet price point, at $4.49 for me at the CVS, but the bag is big and it’s made in the USA.
The mix includes 12 flavors in bold colors.
The beans are absolutely lovely to look at. They’re small and well made, each was quite perfect. The Gimbal’s factory advertises that it’s free of most major allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, gluten, gelatin and soy. As a jelly bean product they’re also fat free and contain no high fructose corn syrup (but I’ve never actually seen a jelly bean made with HFCS). The front of the package says they’re made with real fruit juice, and that’d be apple juice. It also says that it’s a good source of Vitamin C, but that’s only 10% of your RDA in a serving of 37 beans (about 1.4 ounces).
But as much as they tout the freedom from allergens, there are still plenty of other ingredients some folks may avoid, such as artificial flavors and colors.
Most of the beans were opaque, but in the case of beans of similar colors, one was translucent, the other opaque. The structure of the bean is the same as other jelly beans. A jelly center (modified food starch give it its smooth texture) covered in a grainy and flavored shell. In the case of these beans, they jelly center is the sour part, so the sourness goes through and through.
They’re tiny, sized like most other gourmet beans like Jelly Belly.
Sour Lemon was fully formed, a mix of juice and peel but with a more boiled marmalade note than a raw flavor.
Sour Grapefruit was fantastic. There was a lot of zest and that pine-type bitterness along with a biting tang of juice.
Sour Tangerine was sour and juicy but unlike the other two citruses, the zest notes didn’t come out until the very end.
Sour Mango was also orange, but opaque. The flavor was similar to peach, and if I wasn’t told it was mango, I probably would have guessed that. It was soft and tart but had that fuzzy fruit flavor that mangoes and peaches share.
Sour Watermelon was the darker green bean. It was pretty good, it reminded me a lot of Jolly Ranchers in the best way possible.
Sour Apple was kind of difficult for me to like. At first I though it was watermelon, it was just too vague. There was an authentic note of apple to it, but not much else.
Sour Lime was almost a key lime. There was soft vanilla note to it but it really finished sour.
Sour Blueberry was refreshing, it had a good berry note to it, almost a raspberry. I wouldn’t say it was really blueberry, but still quite fun.
Sour Grape is an unusual flavor for jelly beans. I see it a lot in hard candies but not so much in jelly beans or gummis. This grape is much like a Pixy Stix, tart and with that malic acid tangy bite and vague artificial grape flavor of soda.
Sour Strawberry had a great mix of flavors, it really had a nice floral start, like a fluffy wad of cotton candy. Then the flavor developed with strong tartness and finished with strawberry jam.
Sour Pomegranate had a lot of very dark floral berry notes to it. It never quite rang true as pomegranate, but it was still a very good bean, not as sour as the others.
Sour Cherry was well done. The flavor was bold and less medicinal than some I’ve had, with green notes and of course that sour finish that most of the beans had.
Overall, it was a good bunch of beans. Even those that I didn’t really like that much such as cherry or mango were still quite good enough that I just ate them instead of trying to pick them out. It’s hard to tell some beans apart unless you’re someplace well lit, so sort before going to movies if you really don’t want to get a flavor you dislike. I did like this flavor set better than the Jelly Belly sour variety which only has five flavors, but that’s purely personal preference.
The intensity satisfied me quite quickly, without giving me acidic burns on my tongue. The price is a bit high compared to generic beans but less than half of what you’d pay for Jelly Belly. They do pack quite a punch and I’m unlikely to finish this 13 ounce bag before Easter even with daily grazing.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Ferrara Pan is introducing quite a few new products lately, especially for the holidays. I noticed this last year when I saw a more generic item on the shelves called Ferrara Pan Chicks & Bunnies Jelly Candy. This year I didn’t see that product on shelves again, instead I found what seemed more exciting and actually got my mouth watering: Lemonhead & Friends Jellies in Fun Springtime Shapes.
It’s a super simple classic candy, a moist, jelled sugar in fruit flavors coated in crunchy sugar.
The name Lemonhead brings to mind a sweet and tart candy, that’s layered with bursts of flavor that includes zest, tartness and sweetness. Let me just start off saying, there is nothing Lemhonheady about these. The assumption I made was that these sugary coatings were also tart. There’s not one iota of tartness in these. But let me move on and tell you what you do get.
The pieces are huge. Larger than I expect something like a jelly to be, though they’re probably about the same weight as a jelly orange slice, they just seemed more than two bites big. They come in two shapes, chicks and rabbits.
Green = Green Apple: this was strange. It was like the artificial banana equivalent of green apple. A strange vaporous version with a slight acetone burn to it. It was all sweet and no tartness, so the flavor was missing a lot of the key flavor oomph.
Red = Cherry: was sweet and almost floral. It was a like a rose flavored version of fake cherry. The bitter aftertaste of the artificial colors was quite noticeable in this rather dark red jelly candy.
Purple = Grape: this has so much going on for it from the smell. It was like a grape soda in the shape of a chick ... until I bit into it and it was all promise and no delivery. The inky grapeness was there as a scent, but there was no malic acid tartness to go along with it. The artificial coloring also gave it a weird aluminum note.
Yellow = Lemon: citrus flavors always go so well with jellies because there are a few flavor notes that go beyond the tangy juice. In this case the zest is dead on, though a little bitter and the sweet floral notes are present. It’s a smidge on the grapefruit side, but I still enjoyed it.
Orange = Orange: like the lemon, this had two components, a note of the orange peel and a bit of floral soapiness. It wasn’t as strong as the lemon, but the balance is good and placed this one among my favorite three flavors.
Pink = Watermelon: was completely unexpected. I thought this was going to be strawberry. The flavor is strange, it reminded me of fresh laundry from the dryer ... there was a sort of static cling smell (I can’t really explain it) and a sweet floral note rather like strawberry and limes.It was really dreadful and bizarre.
The Ferrara Pan more generic jellies were far less expensive and didn’t promise me anything, so I couldn’t be disappointed. The Lemonhead & Friends Jellies captured me with the idea that they were like Lemonheads, that they were going to be tart. That’s an interesting proposition. On the other hand, these fruit jellies do come in some more unusual flavors - I’ve never seen Watermelon or Green Apple jellies before. So if you’ve always hated the tartness of Lemonheads, here’s an opportunity to partake of the brand.
If you’re looking for the best sour jelly, try the Gimbal’s Sour Lovers.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.