CORNY SWEET: The History of The Candy Corn

(Zentangle(R)-inspired background art by Jenn Webster)

There is a certain kind of candy that is so very popular with Halloween as the candy cane is to Christmas; The time-honored candy in which I am talking about, of course, is the candy corn, a confection that is primarily made from sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s wax, and artificial coloring as well as binders. The three colors of the candy mimic the appearance of the corn, hence the name of “candy corn”: A broad yellow end, a tapered orange center, and a pointed white tip. Each piece of the candy corn is approximately three times the size of a real corn kernel from a ripe or dried ear…
There is quite a history as to how the candy corn came to be, as well as how it became sort of a Halloween tradition, I think…In the 1880s, the candy was first produced with the name of “Chicken Feed”; In the 19th century, a company that is now known by the name of Jelly Belly, the Goelitz Confectionary Company, began manufacturing the candy corn. By the late 19th century, the confectioners of America began to seek the candy corn, as well as the other treats inspired by agriculture at the time, to a largely rural society.

As with the fact that the candy cane has been a part of many Christmases while salt-water taffy has been a part of many a summer for centuries, the candy corn was and still is a staple of both the fall season as well as the holiday known as Halloween; The candy’s taste can be described as somewhat polarizing, and yes, it has been a subject of debate, but I am hoping that it would not be too much of a debate…
In olden times when the candy corn made its debut, it was often made by hand; The sugar, corn syrup, carnauba wax, and water were combined by manufacturers and then cooked all of them into a form of a slurry. (Oh, puh-leese look that up, I do not have any clue what THAT means!) For texture, fondant was added, and then to provide a soft bite, marshmallows had been added; And then that final mixture was heated before being poured into shaped molds. During the pouring process, three passes, one for each colored section, were required. That recipe basically remains the same today as it was then, while a production method that is known as “corn starch modeling”, remains the same as well, even though machines would make the candy corn in place of once-strong hands.
But candy corn could not just be limited to Halloween alone: There also happens to be a certain candy that’s sold around Thanksgiving, called “Indian Corn”, which features a chocolate brown wide end, orange center and pointed white tip. And yes, there also happens to be a Christmas candy corn, which is sometimes called “reindeer corn”, and typically has a red end and green center, while the Valentine’s Day variant, which is sometimes called “cupid corn”, typically has a red end and a pink center. And oh, yes-There also happens to be a candy corn that is made here in the U.S. during 4th of July celebrations, called “freedom corn”: That’s candy corn with a blue end, white center, and a red tip.

According to the National Confectioners Association, it is estimated that 35 million pounds (over 9000 metric tons) of candy corn are sold annually; And with that, one just got to need a bigger jack-o-lantern bucket!



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