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Old Fashioned Candy

Updated on December 24, 2009

Candy is a sweet food consisting mostly of sugar. In addition to sugar, most candies contain a variety of other ingredients, including milk, cream, fruits, nuts, and flavoring. Candies, which are easily digested by most people, are useful as foods because they provide the body with energy.

Although candies contain energy-rich carbohydrates and are filling, they do not contain most of the other nutrients vital to good health. They should not be eaten before meals, because they spoil the appetite for more nutritious foods. Because of its high sugar content and because many gummy, sticky candies become lodged between the teeth, candy is a major cause of dental caries. Eating too much candy may also promote acne, particularly in adolescents.

Kinds of Candy

There are more than 2,000 kinds of candy. They are made in many forms with a wide variety of ingredients. Candies are usually classified into four major groups according to their texture and sugar content. The simplest candies are the hard candies, which are made from cooled sugar syrups. They are usually brittle, and include such candies as sour balls, jawbreakers, and lemon drops.

The second group includes candies consisting primarily of sugar, with less than 5 percent of other ingredients. These candies often contain gelatin and egg white, and some of them, such as marshmallows and nougats, are whipped to a fluffy texture.

Candies in the third classification contain large percentages of other ingredients, including starch, milk or cream, fruits, and nuts. Fudge, caramel, and chocolate are popular examples of this group.

The fourth classification is limited to fondants, or soft creams, which are used mainly as fillings for chocolate candies, such as bonbons. Fondants contain sugar, milk or water, and flavoring.

Candies for Special Occasions. Candy is often made to celebrate festive occasions and holidays. Christmas candies include peppermint sticks, candy canes, and chocolates in the shapes of Santa Clauses, angels, and reindeer. In Mexico, papier-mache animals, called pinatas, are filled with candies and suspended from the ceiling to be broken by children.

Valentine candies include heart-shaped chocolates and hard candies, cinnamon red-hots, and thin candy wafers with short messages printed on them. Easter candies include candy rabbits and hollow sugar eggs containing cardboard scenes and figures. Candy corn, licorice cats and witches, and candied apples are popular trick-or-treat gifts at Halloween.

Many candies are decorative. Marzipan candy animals, foods, houses, and people are popular with young children in many countries. Place settings at christenings and baby showers may be decorated with candy-coated almonds painted to resemble bundled babies or baby shoes. Small silver balls of candy, called dragees, and chocolate and multicolored nonpareils, or sprinkles, are used to ornament cake and ice cream.

When was candy first eaten?

Do you know of any candy that is not sweet? As a matter of fact, people sometimes refer to candy as "sweets." This is because the most important part of all candy is sugar.

Now that we know this, it. will not surprise us to learn how the word "candy" came into being. In Persia, about the year 500 A.D., they were able to make sugar in solid form. The Persian name for white sugar was "kandi-sefid." And that's where we got the word "candy!"

In ancient times, most people had something that could be considered a sort of candy, even if they didn't have sugar. The Egyptians, for example, have left written and picture records of candy and candy-making. But since they didn't know how to refine sugar, they used honey as a sweetener. And they used dates as the basis for their sweetmeats. In many parts of the Far East, even today, each tribe has its official candy-maker and secret recipes. They use almonds, honey, and figs to make their candy.

Oddly enough, nobody in Europe had the idea of making something sweet to eat for its own sake until quite recently. They would use sweet syrup to hide the taste of bitter medicines. Then, in the seventeenth century, a great deal of sugar began to be shipped to Europe from the colonies. So candy-making as a separate art began in Europe at that time.

The French were the first to candy fruits and to develop their recipes. One of these, a nut and sugar-syrup sweet called prawlings, may have been the forerunner of the famous New Orleans pralines.

The early American settlers boiled the sap of the maple tree to make maple-sugar candy. Taffy pulls were social events, and sugar crystals were grown and formed on strings to make rock candy. About 1850 small lozenges, many of them heart-shaped, had romantic messages printed on them. Later on, candy shops began to sell peppermint lozenges and chocolate drops, and the candy business was on its way!

History of Candy

The earliest reference to candy, found in Egyptian scrolls of about 2000 B.C., mentions sweetmeats, consisting mainly of honey, that were prepared as offerings for the gods. Licorice and ginger candies probably originated more than 3,000 years ago in the Far East. Early Mediterranean peoples usually made candy from honey, flour, fruits, and nuts, and ancient Greek and Roman doctors disguised the unpleasant taste of some medicines with candy syrups.

Chocolate was introduced to Europe early in the 16th century, when the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez shipped cacao beans from Mexico to Spain. Chocolate beverages gradually became popular throughout Europe, and in 1876 a method of making solid milk chocolate was discovered in Switzerland.

Sugar, which had been imported in small quantities from the East as part of the spice trade, began to be imported in large quantities in the 17th century, and a method of extracting sugar from beetroot was discovered in the late 18th century. Simple sugar candies, usually molded into fanciful shapes, were made by hand and sold in spice and cake shops. With the invention of candymaking machines, the manufacture of candy became less expensive.

The manufacture of candy on a large scale started in the 1800's in England, and by 1851, England led the world in candy production. However, the popularity of candy, together with the invention of more efficient candymaking machines and the reduction in the price of sugar, promoted the establishment of candy industries all over Europe.

The first commercial candies in North America were made by Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (now New York City). They made sugar wafers, sugarplums, and marzipan. New England colonists in rural areas made candy from the sap of sugar maples. The colonists flavored their candies with wintergreen, spearmint, peppermint, ginger, and sassafras bark. Because all candies were made by hand, they were relatively expensive, and most commercial candies were sold only in small shops in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1851 the adoption of improved candymaking machines and a large-scale mill process for making powdered sugar greatly reduced the cost of producing candy.

What's your favorite candy?

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    • Mary Worthington profile image

      Mary Worthington 7 years ago from Texas

      My favorite subject!!

    • DesignerHandbags profile image

      Jenny Wolf 7 years ago from Point Pleasant, New Jersey

      OMG!!!! Those close ups are amazing, can almost taste the sugar from here. Great job as always to the best HubPages has to offer.