15 of America's Favorite Regional Sweets
There are still places where a trip to the candy store doesn't mean a Snickers or a Twix, but a souvenir worth writing home about—because you're likely to eat it before it gets there. Just in time for Valentine's Day, here are 15 of America's most storied treats.
Wisconsin: Candy Raisins
When Necco closed shop in Milwaukee back in 2008, along with local factory jobs went Candy Raisins. The odd little gumdrops had been a local rite of passage since 1930: Yellow-tan with a wrinkly top, the taste was floral, honey-ginger perhaps, a mystery. Also a mystery: the name (there are no raisins in the mix). But, in a lesson for Occupy Sweet Street, devotees rallied, started a website, and inspired 7,000-plus to sign a petition—and it worked. Sort of. Using what is thought to be the last bags in existence, the people behind Osmanium Candy Company reverse-engineered a new version called Candy Sunshine. The fruits of their labor debut in March 2012.
Get it: Candy Sunshine will be available at many shops in the Milwaukee area, including Candyman Snack Shop (7259 W. North Avenue; 414/393-7647) and Half Nuts (9617 W Greenfield Ave., West Allis, 414/476-6887). You can also order directly from Osmanium (candysunshine.co; $5 for a pack of three bags).
Florida: Coconut Patties
When it comes to chocolate-covered-coconut, sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. Down in Florida, the homespun creamy crunchy coconut squares offer bigger flavor decisions: plain, key lime, orange, mango, almond, or piña colada. Versions of the candy have been enjoyed for decades, but Orlando's family-owned Anastasia Confections took them from the home kitchen to the masses when it started boxing them up as Sunshine State souvenirs in the early '80s.
Get it: Brands like Anastasia are found in tourist shops and drug stores (anastasiaconfections.com; $5.99 for a nine-piece box). For a fancier, hand-dipped version, try Melbourne's Grimaldi Candies, near the beach (grimaldicandies.com; $10.85 for eight pieces).
Virginia: Peanut Brittle
Paul Bunyan might have dug the Grand Canyon out west, but down in the south, lumberjack folk hero Tony Beaver made peanut brittle. The legend goes that he stooped a flood by dumping peanuts and molasses into a river, not only averting disaster but also creating a tasty treat. It's one of America's oldest candies, one that soldiers survived on (and popularized) during the Civil War. January 26 was even declared National Peanut Brittle Day. And that's no tall tale.
Get it: Forbes Candies—an 80-year-old institution—sells their classic peanut brittle at five shops in Virginia Beach. forbescandies.com; $5.99 per pound.
New Jersey: Salt Water Taffy
From America's archetypal seaside resort comes the quintessential beach treat. Although businessmen like Joseph Fralinger and Enoch James built a boardwalk empire out of the pastel-hued chews, legend has it the first pieces were sold in 1883 after a tidal surge swamped David Bradley's Atlantic City candy shop, soaking his stock of taffy in sea water. Later, when a young girl came in and asked for a bag, he sarcastically told her to help her herself to the “salt water taffy.” You, and your dental fillings, won't be surprised to hear that the name stuck.
Get it: Fralinger's Original Taffy and James Candy carry more than 40 flavors of taffy at shops up and down the Atlantic City boardwalk jamescandy.com; $5.95 per pound in stores or $8.99 per pound online.
Vermont: Maple Sugar Candy
From the Algonquin sinzibukwud (“drawn from wood”) to today's Grade A, maple syrup has been a staple since pre-colonial times. The simplicity is refreshing. One ingredient: sugar maple sap. One process: boiling. Keep the boiling going and you get sugar, which is compressed into leaf shapes and enjoyed in all its tooth-aching glory. Maple sugar is actually twice as sweet as regular sugar, so much so that sour dill pickles make a great accompaniment. Trust us!
Get it: Family-owned since 1782, Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks sells the candies in the shape of leaves, hearts, and even rabbits (morsefarm.com; $8.95 for a 12-piece box). Alas, they don't carry pickles.
Pennsylvania: Peanut Chew
Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews were the original PowerBar, back when candy was considered a low-cost nutritional supplement (anyone remember Sperry’s Chicken Dinner bar?). The chews were formulated in 1917 for ration boxes, and four years later these gobs of rich molasses and peanuts all slathered in dark chocolate were wrapped up for the general public and sold as Chew-ets. They've been a hit ever since.
SEE THE SWEETS!
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