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The 17th Century Origins of the Candy Cane

Candy-Cane-ClassicFor some people, Christmas is all about the foods, for others, a single piece of candy cane or the scent of pine can bring them back to their childhood holidays. It is no stretch to suggest that the Candy Cane is one of the most Christmasized of all candies– probably because it was created for the season and is fraught with meaning for those who choose to look for it.

According to legend, they have a German history, but given the German origins of the British monarchy during Jane Austen’s life, it’s not a stretch to think that the treat might have been brought over to England, along with the Christmas tree and other, older traditions, like the Yule Log. Did Jane enjoy stick candy or candy canes? We may never know.

 

“According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus. From Germany, the candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity. As such, according to this legend, the candy cane became associated with Christmastide.

A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with coloured stripes, was published in 1844 in The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson. The “candy cane” has been mentioned by name in literature since 1866.

Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed one of the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s. Meanwhile, in 1919 in Albany, Georgia, Bob McCormack began making candy canes for local children. By the middle of the century his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world’s leading candy cane producers. But candy cane manufacturing initially required a fair bit of labor that limited production quantities. The canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line in order to create their ‘J’ shape, and breakage often ran over 20 percent. It was McCormack’s brother-in-law, a seminary student in Rome named Gregory Harding Keller, who used to spend his summers back home working in the candy factory. In 1957, as an ordained Roman Catholic Christian priest of the Diocese of Little Rock, Keller patented his invention, the Keller Machine which automated the process of twisting soft candy into spiral striping and then cutting them into precise lengths as candy canes.

Candy_cane_William_B_Steenberge_Bangor_NY_1844-1922

In celebration of Saint Nicholas Day, December 6, candy canes are given to children as they are also said to represent the crosier of the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas; crosiers themselves allude to the Good Shepherd, a title associated with Jesus.”

Pulled Peppermint Candy Sticks (1844)

Clove, Ginger, or Peppermint Candy.—These are all made in the same way as raspberry, using the essential oil of each for flavour. For clove, the mixture, whilst boiling, is coloured with cochineal; ginger with saffron; but the peppermint must be kept perfectly white, except the stripes, which is done by cutting off as many pieces from the bulk as you have colours, which should be in powder; put a sufficiency in each piece to give the desired tint, and keep them warm. When the remaining portion of the sugar is pulled, lay them over the surface in narrow stripes, double the roll together, and the face each way will be alike. Pull them out into long sticks, and twist them; make them round by rolling them under the hand, or they may be cut into small pieces with a pair of shears or scissors.

Raspberry Candy.—This may either be made from raw or refined sugar. Boil it to the crack, and colour it with cochineal; pour it on a stone rubbed over with a little oil or butter, cut off a small piece, and keep it warm to stripe or case the other part, when finished; to the remainder add a little tartaric acid (not so much as for drops), and some raspberry-paste, sufficient to flavour it. The residue of raspberries used for making vinegar, and preserved with an equal quantity of sugar, or even less, as for raspberry cakes, does very well for this purpose. Fold the edges over into the centre, and attach it to a hook fixed against the wall: pull it towards you, throwing it on the hook each time after having pulled it out; continue doing this until it gets rather white and shining, then make it into a compact long roll, and either stripe it with the piece you cut off, or roll it out in a sheet with a rolling-pin, and wrap it round it so as to form a sort of case; then pull it into long narrow sticks, and cut them the required length.

Historical information from Wikipedia.com, recipe from The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical, by Eleanor Parkinson.

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Apricot Marmalade and Apricot “Cakes”

apricot marmalade

Apricot Marmalade – A Regency Recipe

The following recipe is shared, courtesy of Pen Vogler, from her recent book, Dinner with Mr. Darcy, via our online gift shop. Check out this amazing cookbook (with it’s mouthwatering photographs!) for many more Regency era recipes.

Apricot "Cakes"
Apricot “Cakes” from Pen Vogler’s Dinner with Mr. Darcy

 

recipe

 

Dinner with Mr. Darcy, from which this recipe for apricot marmalade is taken, is available in our online gift shop

Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, by Pen Vogler
Cico Books (2013)
Hardcover (160) pages
ISBN: 978-1782490562

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Visions of Sugar Plums

1907 Cover of A Visit from Saint Nicholas.With Clement C. Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, we all now associate “Sugar Plums” with Christmas. In this early American depiction of Christmas Eve, we find the trappings of modern Christmas, from stockings to Jolly old Saint Nick, himself, round, red and fur trimmed, slipping up the chimney after leaving piles of presents for the children, “asleep in their beds, while visions of Sugar Plums dance in their heads.”

So what did a Regency Sugar Plum look like? The 1914  OED describes it thus,  “Sugar-plum – A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugar and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit”.

“Plum” in the name of this confection does not mean plum in the sense of the fruit of the same name. At one time, “plum” was used to denote any dried fruit.  Modern “Sugar plums” may be made from any combination of dried plums (aka prunes), dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates, and dried cherries, but traditional sugar plums contain none of these.

The word came in general usage in 1600s, when adding layers of sweet which give sugar plums and comfits their hard shell was done through a slow and labour intensive process called panning. Until the mechanization of the process, it often took several days, thus the sugar plum was largely a luxury product. In fact in the 18th century the word plum became a British slang for a big pile of money or a bribe.

 

A confectioner creating 'sugar plums' .
A confectioner creating ‘sugar plums’ .

Georgian Sugar Plums, then, looked much more like today’s Jordan Almonds, than anything else. Theodore Garrett, author of The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (1890) notes that “These are described under CARAWAY COMFITS, a more elaborate variety of them being known as DRAGÉES OR FRENCH SUGAR PLUMS…small strips of cinnamon [can also be] made to start off French Sugar Plums.

“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice his cone of sugarplums.
“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice the cone of sugarplums.

William Alexis Jarrin, author of The Italian Confectioner; Or, Complete Economy of Desserts, According to the Most Modern and Approved Practice, 1829, details the process, thus:

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After Dinner Mints & Candies

Mint and its various forms have long been used as health aids. John Gerard, author of The Herball (1597) recommends it for everything from a “stomacke” ache to contraception. 200 years later, it was still used to ease discomfort and freshen the breath. No wonder the after dinner mint came into being. One of the oldest commercially produced mints is the Altoid, “The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Peppermints “. Though now manufactured in many flavors by the American company, Wrigley, they were originally created in the 1780’s by London-based Smith & Company. By the 1800’s they had been incorporated into the Callard & Bowser confection company.

Not everyone could had the means or desire to purchase their peppermint candies. Candy recipes abounded in period cookbooks, like this one from Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats:

To Make Mint Cakes
Take a pound of sugar finely beaten, & put to it 3 or 4 spoonfulls of mint water, & boyle it up to a candy. The take some mint & shread it small & put it to yr candy and drop it as you did the rose cakes, & set them in ye sun or a stove to dry.

To Make Cakes of Roses
Take roses & cut the whites from them after they are pluckt, then stamp& streyne them with the damask rose water & ye juice of leamons. Then put it in a skillet with as much sugar as your juice will wet. Then set it on a soft fire & let it boyl softly till it be pritty stiff. Then drop it on a plate, & If it stand, it is enough. Then drop it in little cakes and set them in the sun to dry.

A modern recipe for Mint candies can be found here Cooks.com

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Molland’s Marzipan

eating marzipan

Molland’s Marzipan

It began to rain, not much, but enough to make shelter desirable for women, and quite enough to make it very desirable for Miss Elliot to have the advantage of being conveyed home in Lady Dalrymple’s carriage, which was seen waiting at a little distance; she, Anne, and Mrs Clay, therefore, turned into Molland’s, while Mr Elliot stepped to Lady Dalrymple, to request her assistance.
Persuasion

Marzipan or Marchpane, as it was originally called, is a confectionery consisting primarily of ground almonds and sugar that derives its characteristic flavor from bitter almonds. Most marzipan is also flavored with rosewater. Although it is believed to have originated in Persia (present-day Iran) and to have been introduced to Europe through the Turks, there is some dispute between Hungary and Italy over its originator. Marzipan became a specialty of the Baltic Sea region of Germany. In particular, the city of Lübeck has a proud tradition of marzipan manufacture. The city’s manufacturers like Niederegger still guarantee their Marzipan to contain two thirds almonds by weight, which results in a juicy, bright yellow product.

According to Anne Wilson, author of Food and Drink in Britain from the Stone Age to the 19th Century, “marzipan was a discovery of the later Middle Ages, dependent as it was upon the union of ground almonds with sugar. One of the earliest uses for the paste was in subtleties. When they had been sufficiently applauded they were dismantled and eaten. In the fifteenth century a marchpane began to emerge as a sweet in its own right. And by Elizabeth I’s reign, when the subtlety was becoming archiaic, a marchpane was regularly produced as the chief showpiece at the banquet or dessert course served to guests at the end of a meal. It was made of ground almonds and sugar on a base of wafer biscuits, and was formed into a round (a hoop of green hazelwood sometimes helped shape it). The frosting of the marchpane with sugar and rosewater to make it shine like ice was an important part of the preparation; and so was the gilding with decorative shapes in gold leaf.” More recent uses of Marzipan hearken back to its original purpose as chefs strive to outdo one another creating lifelike marzipan fruits and vegetables. You can also find it hiding inside hand dipped chocolates and under wedding cake frosting.


Jane Austen would undoubtedly have been familiar with this form of the treat. Perhaps it was even a favorite! Her character, Elizabeth Elliot of Persuasion, frequents Molland’s Tea Shop, in Milsom Street— their Marzipan, she confesses in the film, is the finest in the world

To make Machpane Cakes
Take almonds & blanch them in warme water, then beat them very fine in a stone morter and put in a little rose water to keepe them from oyling, then take the same weight in sugar as you doe of almonds, & mingle it with them when they are beaten very small & short, onely reserveing some of it to mould up the almonds with all. Then make them up in pritty thick cakes, & harden them in a bakeing pan. The make a fine clear candy, & doe it over you marchpanes with a feather. Soe set them in your pan againe, till the candy grow hard. Then take them out, & candy the other side. Set them in againe, & look often to the them. Keepe a very temperate fire, both over & u[nder them,] & set them in a stove to dry.”
-Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats [1749-1799]

To make Marchpane

    Ingredients:

  • 8oz ground almonds
  • 4oz icing sugar
  • 3 tbs rosewater
  • Waxed paper or rice paper
    Glaze:

  • 1tsp rosewater
  • 1 tbs icing sugar
  • 1 tbs rice flour
  1. Mix the almonds and rosewater in a bowl.
  2. Stir in the icing sugar and work them together with a pestle or the back of a wooden spoon until they form a smooth, very firm dough. Be careful not to work them too harshly, or the mixture will turn oily.
  3. Line the base and bottom inch of a 7inch round loose-bottomed cake tin with the wafers or rice paper, place the dough inside, and smooth level with a spatula.
  4. Mix the glaze ingredients together, and brush them over the top of the marchpane.
  5. Place the marchpane on the baking sheet and bake at 175 f for 30 min. Then remove and leave to cool. Repeat this stage, if necessary, until it is quite firm.

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Quince Paste: Sweatmeat to Kings

The quince, when ripe resembles a firm, yellow pear. With an aroma reminiscent of roses and apples, this is one of the oddest of period fruits. Containing perhaps the highest pectin count of any tree fruit, it’s tart flesh lends itself beautifully to jams, jellies and “cheeses”, recipes which benefit from the addition of large amounts of sugar.

A botanical illustration by Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

Originally, Quince Preserves were shipped to England from the Mediterranean, Spain, France, Portugal and points south. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that records of their being grown natively exist. Many Medieval texts hold recipes for jellies, and fruit pastes made from the Quince. These were called chardequince or chardewarden, where the fruit was often mixed with pears for a pleasing flavor.

A delftware charger with a selection of white and red quince “marmalades” (paste candies) as they were made in early Stuart England, showing both printed and knotted varieties.

According to Historicfood.com, “Other names were cotoniack, quiddany and diasetonia. The last was a term used by the London apothecaries, who prescribed these sweet pastes and jellies for helping the digestion. This was the reason why quince pastes were served after the meal during the banquet course. In 1629, John Parkinson, the Covent Garden based herbarist to James I, wrote:

“There is no fruit growing in this Land that is of so many excellent uses as this, serving as well to make many dishes of meate for the table, as for banquets, and much more for the Physicall vertues”.

White and red quince pastes were both popular, the latter sometimes being coloured with barberry juice or cochineal. Quinces were also considered to be an aphrodisiac – probably the reason why seventeenth century London prostitutes were known as marmalade madams.

The following recipes are from a Mr. Borella, confectioner to the Spanish Ambassador to the English Court in the mid 18th century.

Quince Paste
Let your quinces be full ripe, boil them till they are quite tender, drain and sift them as usual; reduce the marmalade (on the fire) to a paste-consistence, stirring continually, accord­ing to the quantity of quince-marmalade; refine a pound of sugar to three quarters of quinces; mix them together on a very flow fire without boiling, put it into what form you please directly, and dry as usual.

Red Quince Paste
To make the paste of a fine red, bake the quinces in the oven a long while, then peel and sift them in a strong hair-sieve; dry the marmalade over a slow fire a little while, to about half the consistency of a paste then to redden it the more, keep it a good while on a slow ashes-fire, stirring some time; and to add to this redness, put a little steeped cochineal, and reduce it on a flow fire, to a thick paste; that is, when it loosens from the Pan; put as much sugar as marmalade, or paste, soak it a little while on the fire and let it cool, just enough to work it well with the hands, and finish directly as usual.
From Borella, The Court and Country Confectioner (London: 1770)

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