Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Atomic Fireballs

Atomic Fireballs were invented in 1954 by Nello Ferrara, the son of the founder of Ferrara Pan. The spicy flavor and the exceptionally long lasting candy was instantly popular (coupled with the pop culture obsession with all things atomic at the time).

imageAtomic Fireballs are made in a process called hot panning, where layers of sugar syrup and flavor are deposited on a single sugar grain core. The pans are hot as they tumble the developing candies through this long process. It takes two weeks and at least a hundred layers to make the familiar spicy jawbreaker. You can see the process here at the Ferrara Pan website. Ferrara Pan sells over 15,000,000 every week!

Atomic Fireballs come in two sizes, a little pea sized one in boxes similar in format to the Lemonhead and the more popular full-sized, individually-wrapped jawbreaker. (Ferrera Pan still makes Red Hots, which are cinnamon imperials and though they’re nice they’re NOT the same thing.) I haven’t seen the little ones in years, but a quick search on the internet indicates that they’re still around. (Here’s a great shot of their old packaging.)

It’s still easy to find Atomic Fireballs individually wrapped, usually for a nickel or dime each at checkout stands at convenience stores or liquor stores.

imageAll that history and nostalgia aside, how are they?

The outside is rather mild. The shiny ball is smooth and takes a moment to release a strong blast of cinnamon (and a little bitterness too for those who can taste Red 40). Either I’ve become extremely resilient over the years (and judging from my inability to eat my husband’s chili, I’d say not) or they’ve decreased the hotness of this product.

The cinnamon was definitely tingly and spicy but didn’t really gain any momentum until the second “major” layer. I recall not being able to hold one in my mouth for very long as a kid ... it’s no issue at all now.

I also think the texture has changed slightly. It feels a bit lighter, a little more chalky now. It loses flavor after that second internal layer. I had no problem crunching one open for the cross section with some nutcrackers ... something that was extremely difficult years ago because of the density (and possibly they were larger back in the olden days). The best way when I was a kid to break them open was to drop them onto concrete. This was more fun with the old full-sized Everlasting Gobstoppers because they had colored layers.

Fireballs were one of those candies I enjoyed eating while reading and later on long car trips where I found the hotness kept me alert while driving. I’m a cruncher, but the sphere has to be dissolved down to at least a third of its original size before I can crack it open with my teeth. I wish they were as strong as I remember them, they’d get a full on 9 out of 10 if they did. But this watered down version is still a fun 7 out of 10.

Other fun things I found out while researching this:

  • In Europe they’re called Atomic Fire Blast.
  • Robert at Candy Addict had a sweet (and spicy) flashback
  • Each large sized Atomic Fireball has 20 calories (if you’re able to eat the whole thing) and weighs 5.67 grams (.2 ounces)
  • The bag I bought says it was produced in a factory that also handles peanuts, tree nuts, milk, wheat, soy and eggs ... all that’s missing from the list of allergens is BEES!
  • This package was made in Mexico, I’ll try to find out if they still make them in the United States.

    Related Candies

    1. Anis de Flavigny
    2. Goodbye Reed’s
    3. The Lemonhead & Fruit Heads
    4. Choward’s Violet
    Name: Atomic Fireball
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Ferrera Pan
    Place Purchased: 99 Cent Only Store (Harbor City)
    Price: $.99
    Size: 6.25 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 66
    Categories: Hard Candy, Mexico, Ferrera Pan

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:37 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

    1. These are one of my favorites! I, too, remember them as being spicier. Great pregnant candy (except for ow, the heartburn).
      Kosher, too.

      Comment by Rachel B. on 8/07/07 at 8:03 am #
    2. Do you remember Daredevils?  They were all the rage when I was in eighth grade (1989), along with Now & Laters.

      Basically they were Atomic Fireballs, except that every other layer was a cool vanilla flavor.  So it alternated between hot and cold.  The flavors blended really well. 

      If you can find out anything about these, Mrs. Candy Blog, let me know. smile

      Comment by Dennis on 8/07/07 at 8:57 am #
    3. I thought I was imagining things… I think they were bigger and spicier when I was a kid.  I do love them, though.  I always have a stash of them here in the candy dish in my officer, and judging by their tendency to disappear rapidly, I’m not alone!

      Comment by Maggi on 8/07/07 at 10:32 am #
    4. You overlooked one - the factory is also missing the shellfish allergen. :^)

      Comment by Tricia on 8/07/07 at 4:53 pm #
    5. My favorite Atomic Fireball story isn’t an old one at all. A couple years ago I gave one to a classmate before our class. Not long into the class she was called on by the teacher for something or other and answered (direct quote)
      “I can’t talk. I have an Atomic Fireball in my mouth.”

      Cracked me up.

      Comment by russ on 8/07/07 at 7:56 pm #
    6. I love those but they can be a bit powerful

      Comment by Alyssa on 8/08/07 at 4:28 am #
    7. I’m glad it’s not just me who’s noticed the “dumbing down” of the spiciness. It’s no wonder now why my kids looked at me funny when I warned them how hot they are!

      Comment by Heather on 8/08/07 at 6:42 am #
    8. It seems the company no longer makes Alexander the Grape?  Sadness for me. :(

      Comment by Marjorie Hansen on 8/12/07 at 9:43 am #
    9. Cybele's avatar

      Marjorie - no, no more Alexander the Grape ... but now they call them Grape Heads:

      Heather - good to know from this side that I’m also not alone in deciding that they’re mellower.

      Alyssa - I’ve found that they vary too, sometimes they’ll be really easy to eat and then suddenly a really hot one.

      Tricia - you’re right! And latex while they’re at it.

      Rachel B - this package was NOT marked Kosher, I’m guessing it’s because it was made in Mexico ... maybe the American factory is Kosher certified.

      Dennis - there’s a candy made by Sconza these days called Cinnamon Screamers that alternates between hot cinnamon and cool mint:


      Russ - is that like invoking the fifth?

      Comment by Cybele on 8/12/07 at 1:39 pm #
    10. I recently made a fascinating discovery - if you keep your fireballs in the fridge, they become really easy to crunch! And yes, I agree they’re less spicy than they used to be.

      Comment by Kim on 10/23/07 at 7:36 pm #
    11. Atomic Fireballs can be bought in bulk at Sam’s Clubs.  I bring the large container to work and they are usually gone within 2-days.

      Comment by PJR on 2/27/08 at 7:03 am #
    12. Atomic Fireballs will become hotter if stored in a closed Mason Jar. I kept a half gallon jug closed for three years and I can barely keep them in my mouth. They rock.

      Comment by Dawn on 4/15/08 at 6:42 pm #
    13. I just tried to order Sconza Screamers, but they have been discontinued.  What is WRONG with this country when I can’t buy a simple jawbreaker that will bring tears to my eyes?

      Comment by Alex on 5/09/08 at 10:24 am #
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