Salt water taffy is a customary seaside treat that was first made in Atlantic City, N.J, in the late 1800s. The inexpensive treat's popularity spread throughout the United States. Despite the popular candy's name, it is not made with salt water.
Salt water taffy has a light, chewy texture. Although it is not officially documented, the name 'salt water taffy' was a marketing concept developed in the 1800s to sell taffy candy near the oceanside. According to the National Confectioners Association, "Modern technology allows confectioners to produce 1,000 pieces of taffy a minute. In one hour, enough pieces of taffy are made to cover one third of the length of Atlantic City (about 1.3 miles)." May 23 is National Taffy Day.
The origins of the name "salt water taffy" are unknown. According to popular myth, David Bradley owned a sweetshop in Atlantic City. In 1889, after a powerful storm hit, the shop's taffy supply was drenched by ocean water. When a customer stopped by his shop to buy taffy, Bradley jokingly offered up "salt water taffy." The customer bought the candy, spreading news of a new taffy concoction. It is rumoured that Bradley's mother overheard the sale and insisted he use the catchy new name.
How it is Made
Made primarily from a mixture of corn syrup, sugar and butter, salt water taffy is cooked to 121 degrees C, and then placed on a pan to cool. Afterwards, the candy is pulled. Hand pulling or machine pulling the candy puts air into the mix, giving the concoction a unique fluffy texture. After it is stretched, the taffy it is cut into small pieces and wrapped. Newer taffy recipes substitute glycerine or corn syrup in place of sugar, making the candy's texture stickier. Traditional or homemade salt water taffy is hand pulled. Hand-pulled taffy is placed on a hook until it stretches to become six feet long. It is then picked up and hung to stretch again. The process is repeated until the taffy is soft.
James Salt Water Taffy and Fralinger's make the two most popular salt water taffy recipes. Although their recipes have changed very little, they do offer many flavours. Some candy makers produce as many as 50 assorted flavours of salt water taffy. Popular flavours include: grape, cherry, apple, chocolate, Neapolitan, watermelon, red liquorice, chocolate, cinnamon, raspberry and vanilla. Speciality flavours such as eggnog, cheesecake and caramel apple are also offered. Taffy lovers who have dietary restrictions can also find gluten free, sugar free and low-sodium varieties of taffy in select shops.
Although salt and water are necessary to make salt water taffy, it is not made from salt water. While the candy is most popular at seaside vacation spots, ocean water is not used at any stage of the candy's production.