Ahh… summertime! If you’ve ever spent time by an ocean, you’ve probably enjoyed walks on the beach, swimming in the surf, shopping along the boardwalk and, of course, eating sweet, sticky taffy!
Salt water taffy is a tasty treat that’s right at home in shops all along coastlines everywhere. If you’ve ever had a mouthful of seawater, though, you probably know that salt water taffy is sweet and doesn’t taste anything like seawater. What’s up with that?
Salt water taffy was born along the boardwalks of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the late 19th century. It quickly became a popular souvenir with visitors and eventually spread to many other coastal towns.
Although taffy recipes vary from one candymaker to another, the most common ingredients in taffy are sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, water, butter, salt, food coloring and flavorings. You may have noticed that the list of ingredients includes both salt and water.
However, salt water taffy doesn’t actually contain seawater. So how did it get its name?
No one knows for sure how salt water taffy got its name, but one legend holds that it came from David Bradley, who owned a candy store in the late 19th century.
The story goes that Bradley’s candy store became flooded during a major storm in 1883. His entire stock of taffy became soaked with seawater from the Atlantic Ocean, so he began to call it “salt water taffy” as a joke.
If you’ve ever seen taffy being made, you probably were fascinated by watching the taffy being pulled by a special machine. The pulling process is a critical part of making taffy.
Without pulling, taffy would be very hard. Pulling taffy aerates it by capturing tons of tiny air bubbles within the taffy. These air bubbles make the taffy softer and chewy.
Before special taffy-pulling machines were invented, candymakers would pull taffy with a simple hook attached to the wall. They would place a huge glob of taffy (10 to 25 pounds or more!) on the hook and then pull it five or six feet before folding it back on itself and throwing it back over the hook.
They would repeat this process — it was quite a workout! — over and over again until the taffy became soft and chewy.
No one knows for sure how many different flavors of taffy have been made. Since you can make taffy in just about any flavor, the answer would have to be in the hundreds.
An online search for taffy will lead you to online stores with more than 150 different flavors of taffy, including gooseberry, jalapeno, chocolate marshmallow and cantaloupe!