The Pull of Taffy

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If you visit any Atlantic seaside resort area from New Jersey down to Florida, you’re sure to find an old-fashioned candy store where you can watch candy makers pull salt water taffy. I’ve seen a few, but none were as forthcoming and friendly as the young man we watched at Wee R Sweetz in Myrtle Beach. I felt like we were getting a combination show/tour/candy-making lesson that ended with a sample of soft, gooey salt water taffy at the end.

I'm embarrassed to admit that after watching him for 30 minutes, I didn't get his name.

I’m embarrassed to admit that after watching him for 30 minutes, I didn’t get his name.

As he guided the huge wad of sugary goodness through the machine, he told us the brief history of salt water taffy. There’s actually no salt water in taffy. It got it’s name when a candy store in Atlantic City, New Jersey was flooded during a hurricane. All the taffy got soaked with ocean water, but the store owner sold it, jokingly calling it “salt water taffy.” The name stuck and may be part of why taffy is sold at so many beachside towns. Roam any boardwalk along the Atlantic and you’re sure to find someone selling salt water taffy.

We watched our guy thread the taffy through the machines that aerate it and mix the food coloring in. It reminded my mother of her childhood days when people pulled taffy at home. I tried to visualize how you’d handle a sticky mess like the one on the machines. I didn’t think I’d like to try it, but at the same time, could imagine a family talking and socializing as they folded the taffy together and pulled it apart. Maybe I would have liked to do it after all.

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We were watching a batch of strawberry taffy being made. What set this candy maker apart from others I’ve seen (aside from his engaging presentation), was that he decided to add black “seeds” into the strawberry taffy pieces by rolling out thin strips of black-colored taffy onto the sheet of pink-colored strawberry taffy he’d made. Then he rolled it all up and loaded it into the machine that cuts it off into bite-sized pieces and wraps it. He tossed out pieces to everyone in the crowd and we all swooned over the still warm, fresh piece of delectable taffy that we popped into our mouths.

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If you’ve never had salt water taffy, it’s made of corn syrup, sugar, cornstarch, glycerine, water, butter and salt. It’s consistency is something between bubble gum and caramel. I ended up buying bags of salt water taffy to bring home in flavors such as root beer, cookies & cream, apple, butterscotch, cherry, pina colada, peach, chocolate, and key lime pie. Every piece I’ve eaten has been soft and sweet and instantly takes me back to Myrtle Beach. I wish I’d bought more!

Is there a certain food you associate with a place?

14 responses to “The Pull of Taffy

  1. Crap. Now I want taffy. Foods that I associate with places: Fish ‘n Chips in England, Denver Breweries, Conch from the Keys, Boston’s Chowdah, Maine Lobster and Hawaii’s fresh pineapples! Fortunately, I’ve sunk my teeth into each. 🙂

  2. Wow, you got great photos of this cool operation, Juliann! My mom used to make taffy when I was a kid and we loved to pull it, loved to eat it too! I never tried any flavored taffy, but they sure sound delicious! ♥♥♥ ;^)

    • You actually pulled it? I’m envious! It seems like it would be such fun. Messy, though, I imagine. I looked online and found a recipe for hosting a taffy pull as a children’s party. I keep picturing everything in my house covered with sugary taffy… do I dare?

      • To keep it from sticking, we coated our hands with butter. Can you imagine the bravery of a 27 year old woman with 8 kids, (just imagining that blows my mind, lol!) Coating all our little hands with butter and pulling taffy???

        You probably wont have as much mess as that! She even cut it all into little pieces once it was “done” and we wrapped each piece in little strips of wax paper.

        I guess I didnt recognize it till just now, I think my mother was a saint back in those days! We got her over that stage, tho, probably by having to clean up the taffy!

        Take pictures, if you do it – or maybe better yet, just leave the video camera rolling… not a good idea to pull taffy with buttery hands and try to take pictures too *cringe* ♥♥♥ ;^)

  3. What a neat story! I’ve always loved salt water taffy and never really knew what it was. When we went to Canon Beach here a month or so ago, they had taffy right at the register where we had lunch. It’s the perfect impulse purchase. Mr. H didn’t even need to ask and just included some taffy at checkout. : )

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